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Before the Nissan LEAF There Was the Tama Electric Car

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Tama Electric Car

1947 Tama Electric Car
Photo: Nissan Heritage Collection

In 1947, oil in Japan was scarce and the new government highly encouraged automakers to manufacture electric vehicles. Tachikawa Aircraft renamed itself to Tama Cars Co. after the war and started making EVs. First the company made a truck, then it produced this four-seater passenger car that used lead-acid batteries.

The Tama Electric Car was powered by a 4.5 horsepower DC electric motor, could reach a top speed of about 22 mph, and would go about 60 miles before the batteries ran out of juice. When they did run out, their cases were on rollers to make it easy to swap in new, fully charged batteries. The 2013 Nissan LEAF, by comparison, uses a 107 horsepower electric motor with a lithium-ion battery pack and has an EPA-estimated range of 75 miles.

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry ran performance tests on many electric cars in 1948, where the Tama stood out as the best at the time.

The company that made this classic electric car merged with Nissan in 1966, and Nissan owns this working example that’s believed to be one of the few remaining in the world. Watch the car in action in the video below: