Friday Flashback: The Sinclair C5 Electric Scooter

Until recently, the auto industry hasn’t taken electric vehicles too seriously, and who can blame them? The technology simply had matured enough to allow for the kinds of vehicles consumers were used to, which meant some pretty major compromises had to be made. The Sinclair C5 electric scooter, released in 1985, was a compromised vehicle from the very start, and not many people signed up for its vision of a cleaner, greener future.

Arguably he only vehicle more “1980s futuristic” than the Sinclair C5 is the Ford Probe from Back to the Future II, what with its aerodynamic wheels, off-white paint, and Tron lightcycle-like design. Despite being designed by knighted computer entrepreneur Sir Clive Sinclair, the C5 had no roof for keeping the oft-ugly British weather at bay, but it did have pedals for getting up steep hills.

Yes, that’s right; if you encountered a hill in the C5, you had to pedal to get up it. Poppycock!

While the C5 was cheap, even by 1980s standards, costing just £399 ($614 today, or about $1,339 adjusted for inflation), the one-size-fits-all seating arrangement, lack of cargo or passenger capacity, and complete lack of safety features ensured that Sinclair’s vision of an electric future were a flop.

Honestly, that was probably for the best.

Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.