The 1947 Electric Car That Even Today Looks Modern: Nissan Tama

I’ve mentioned on this blog before the 1947 Nissan Tama.

It has several important historical characteristics that make it look like something very modern even today.

  • Designed for the switch to a peacetime economy
  • Designed by 200 Tachikawa Aircraft employees
  • Extreme shortage of gasoline
  • Top speed of 35 km/h (22 mph) and a cruising range of 65 km (40 miles) on a single charge
  • Passenger car and truck models
  • Battery compartment in the cabin floor, with two doors on either side
  • Battery cases on rollers so used batteries could be quickly exchanged with fresh ones

I bring it up again as people lately have been saying they wish they had a quick way to replace their electric car batteries instead of using a gasoline-pump like attachment for slow (complicated and dangerous) charging.

That is what Tama offered in its “bomb bay” like doors and energy swap cases:

Tama power swap used cases of batteries on rollers

Well I guess that means look at 1947 for the answers from war-time aircraft engineers who understood the significance of rapid replacement, refuel turnaround and similar efficiencies.

Of course it wouldn’t happen today for cars without someone involving robots.

The Chinese refer to the 1940s Japanese model of drive-through battery-swapping as “killed by Tesla years ago” and thus a re-emergence trend:

It’s similarly tempting to get very excited by a Taiwanese company GoGoro as they have slick marketing calling their products “reimagined”. It’s basically the most distributed and modern take yet on what came so long before the ill-conceived “plug-in” market that’s slow, dangerous and bad for batteries.

Source: GoGoro

We’re essentially going back to the beginning, which is good for modern electric vehicles.

The most exciting thing about this stop-and-swap transit model is that any home anywhere could be a supplier. It’s much more attractive to have someone grab a power pack to go than to hook up to your house charger.

And even that model goes back centuries.

Imagine hanging a small sign outside your home that says “power cell available”, like the hanging red lamp of the Japanese Izakaya. That’s in fact a hint at the universal thinking about services and sharing that led everyone towards a modern hotel, the modern restaurant…

Interesting to historians may be how battery replacement goes back even further to an ancient system of canvasarais spaced 20 miles apart on Persian highways, where a tired horse or camel could be quickly refueled or exchanged with a fresh one.

…Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa would have been much more difficult if not for the caravanserais… centers for the exchange of goods and culture…

Thinking of transit problems as new just because some aspect of it is new, prevents us from seeing the millennia of knowledge right in front of our eyes.

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