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July 2017 - Electric Vehicles

As national concern began to develop about fossil fuels, pollution, and other environmental issues, Seattle City Light (SCL) began some early experimentation with electric vehicles. In 1968, SCL introduced the Electruc, which was an experimental electric-powered utility truck. A sign painted on the truck read, “Your bright new future is all electric!”

Research and development continued in the 1970s. City Light photos from 1973 show a prototype electric car made from a modified AMC Gremlin. The car was powered by 24 rechargeable six-volt batteries and could run for about 50 miles at highway speeds before needing to be recharged. SCL developed an “Electro Park” charging station for the vehicle.

Then in 1976, City Light designed another prototype electric vehicle, the RT1, which could travel up to 75 miles on one charge of its eight six-volt batteries. The four-passenger car was only seven feet long and five feet wide, and took up one-fifth the parking space of a typical car from that period. The vehicle was created with funding from SCL’s Research and Development budget.

The RT1 was conceptualized as part of a downtown restricted transportation zone from which most internal combustion vehicles would be barred. City Light envisioned this zone, full of electric cars like the RT1, as nearly eliminating transportation pollution in the urban core.

Electruc Electro Park RT1
Electruc, 1968
Item no. 78726, Seattle Municipal Archives
Electro Park charging station, 1973
Item no. 181159, Seattle Municipal Archives

RT1 electric car prototype, 1976
Item no. 175218, Seattle Municipal Archives