For those who do not frequent the call engine information, the electric car may seem like a recent creation whose popularity has skyrocketed thanks to a host of circumstances, including the climate emergency situation in which the planet finds itself. The latter being true, the reality is that the invention dates back to the first decades of the nineteenth century – yes, it is not a misprint – and that even battery vehicles at the beginning of the twentieth century had much greater popularity than their petrol or benzine equivalents. .
Rechargeable batteries, an elementary part of all electric – then and now -, were made to wait until after 1880, when the famous Thomas Alva Edison, among others, incorporated a nickel one into one of the electric cars that were beginning to be seen on roads and United States highways. These were generally owned by a company or by a consistory like the one in New York, which launched a fleet of battery-powered taxis.
Thus, in 1899, a vehicle powered by electricity and known by the curious name of La Jamais Contente (The never satisfied) exceeded 100 km / h for the first time, a record that seemed the definitive consolidation of a technology that made cars that were easy to handle, silent and affordable, for wealthy citizens, yes. But it was soon seen that the limited autonomy and the long recharging time were going to suppose considerable burdens for its consolidation.
In order not to dwell excessively on this episode in world history, we are now going to focus on the developments that have taken place in our country from more or less the feat of the legendary Belgian racing car. It all starts with the adventure of a Valencian military man and businessman, Emilio de la Cuadra Albiol, founder of what is considered the first national brand in the sense that he began to manufacture vehicles in order to sell them: La Cuadra.
Since Francesc Bonet Dalmau, an engineer from Valls (Tarragona), had obtained exclusive rights to produce cars with combustion engines in 1894, De la Cuadra decided to focus on electric vehicles, so he began to design and build prototype buses and battery-equipped trucks.
As these were exhausted after four or five kilometers, the industrialist came to install a small gasoline engine in his vehicles that operated a generator set to recharge the batteries, which resulted in hybrid vehicles that were not viable either. Disappointed, he ended up switching to the car with an internal combustion engine.
Pablo Gimeno, member of the Asepa (Spanish Association of Automotive Professionals) Technical Commission of Histories, has related these and other details of the genesis of the electric car in Spain in a recently published article. His review continues in 1905, the year in which the gasoline car had evolved remarkably, both in technique and in lines, and which saw the appearance of another electric known as Ardiurme.
Manufactured by the Maquinista Bilbaína de Deusto and designed and / or promoted by Don Artiñano Díaz and Hurtado de Mendoza, with whose first syllables he composed the name, the Ardiurme presented a bodywork reminiscent of that of horse saloons from the end of the 19th century, from one of which he probably took advantage of. It had an engine in each of the rear wheels and, as far as it is known – Gimeno specifies -, it was in a unique copy.
Spanish electric vehicles did not appear again until the years after the Civil War, as a result of the gasoline shortage, and what was done was to replace their conventional engines in some cars to put as many batteries as possible in their place. The Barcelona firm David stood out in this regard, as it owned several Citroën Rosalie taxis, which it provided with a body with more modern lines and a set of batteries in a kind of easily removable chassis of its own.
The invention of removable batteries
The grace of this idea was that the pack of batteries could be quickly replaced by another already charged set, and in which the company had several points of change of batteries in the Catalan capital, something that many years later has also been contemplated, although without satisfactory results.
An experience similar to that of Barcelona took place in the Madrid Ministerial Mobile Park, some of whose cars, most of them Ford, were fitted with batteries and the corresponding electric motors. As the work was commissioned by a company called Wikal, they began to speak of these cars as the Wikal, citing this name as a brand, which does not fit reality.
In 1974, Spanish technicians from the American company Westinghouse designed an electric vehicle based on a Mini Van (Mini van) called Prototype 1, which did not give good results given the high weight of its batteries and its engine, close to 400 kilos. Prototype 2, presented at the Bilbao Fair in 1975, had a motor-battery set of around 180 kilos and a range of 80 kilometers, enough for an urban delivery vehicle, but the project did not have continuity.
In 1992, the year of the Barcelona Olympic Games, we found a Seat Toledo made from a standard one to which they added batteries and an electric motor. Its purpose was none other than to circulate in front of the marathon athletes in order not to disturb them with the noise and gases from their exhaust, and the opportunity was taken to show, for television broadcast purposes, the advantage of the opening of their fifth back door. Obviously, in this case a range of more than 42 kilometers of the mythical test was sought, which was achieved without problems.
The recent push for the electric car has little to do with these relics of the past. The abyss is summed up, as an example, by the Cupra Born – which came out of the same house Seat -, a simple Electric that has just been put on sale with a 204 horsepower engine and up to 424 kilometers of autonomy thanks to a 58 kWh net battery that would have left Edison with his eyes wide open.