Nissan Celebrates 70 Years Of Electric Vehicle Heritage

JUL 7 2017 BY MARK KANE 22

Nissan used the 2017 Goodwood Festival of Speed and its prototype BladeGlider’s debut on the track (watch here) to celebrate its 70 years of electric vehicle heritage.


Specifically, it has been 70 years since the LEAF Tama was introduced in Japan (in 1947 of course) by the Tokyo Electro Automobile Co., Ltd., which later became part of Nissan.

While the relation between Nissan (especially modern-day Nissan) and Tama is a bit willowy, the Japanese company really did do a great service for EVs by providing the first series-produced compact EV on the market worldwide.

Even today, 7 years after the LEAF first appeared, Nissan has still sold more electric cars than any other company, added in the rest of the Alliance (Renault and Mitsubishi) and its not a close race.

The new LEAF, set to debut in early September, could begin a new, even more successful, chapter for Nissan EVs.

Here is some more details about the original Tama:

Long before LEAF: the 1947 Tama electric car

On the cusp of the next-generation Nissan LEAF that arrives later this year, we look back at the company’s early EV roots
During the 1940s’ switch to a peacetime economy, around 200 Tachikawa Aircraft employees moved to the newly established Tokyo Electro Automobile Co., Ltd., which embarked on the development of an electric car. One reason for this was the extreme shortage of gasoline at the time. In 1947, the company succeeded in creating a prototype 2-seater truck (500-kg load capacity) with a 4.5-horsepower motor and a new body design. It was named “Tama” after the area where the company was based.

Nissan celebrates 70 years of electric vehicles with BladeGlider

Its top speed was 34 km/h (21 mph). Next, the company created its first passenger car. With two doors and seating for four, it boasted a top speed of 35 km/h (22 mph) and a cruising range of 65 km (40 miles) on a single charge. The former aircraft maker employed many unique ideas in the design and construction of the Tama, such as its battery compartments.

The Tama came in passenger car and truck models, and both were available in gasoline and electric versions. In 1948, Tama Junior, a compact passenger car, was born. Then, in 1949, came the Tama Senior, a medium-size passenger car. In 1951, this company merged with Prince Motor, which in 1966 became part of Nissan.

The Tama electric car replaceable battery

The battery compartment was in the cabin floor of the Tama electric car. There were two such compartments, one on either side. Each battery case was provided with rollers so that used batteries could be quickly exchanged with freshly charged ones. Thanks to such engineering, the Tama took top honors in the performance tests conducted by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in 1948.

1947 Tama electric car specifications

  • Overall length/width/height: 3,200/1,270/1,650
  • Wheelbase: 2,000 mm
  • Curb weight: 1,050 kg
  • Seating capacity: 4
  • Cruising range per charge: 65 km (40 miles)
  • Motor (36V): DC series-wound, rated at 3.3kW (4.5 hp)
  • Batteries (capacity): Lead-acid battery (40V/162Ah)
  • Top speed/economical speed: 35 km/h (22 mph)/30 km/h (19 mph)

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22 Comments on "Nissan Celebrates 70 Years Of Electric Vehicle Heritage"

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Taylor S Marks

1947: The Tama. We had nothing to do with it, but another company that we killed did, and they’re not around to defend themselves, so we’ll say it’s ours.

1947-1970: Shhh, don’t ask about what we did for these 24 years. Just count them in the 70 year total.

1970-2008: We unveiled 7 concept cars, plus built 30 units of a compliance car that we never sold to anyone and crushed 6 years later. Thank goodness EV enthusiasts don’t remember it like they remember GM’s EV1.

2010-2017: Leaf! Leaf! Leaf! Leaf! Leaf! Leaf! Leaf! Leaf! How many bullets can we mention it in on a single poster? We’re glad you asked: the answer is 16.

Oh, and we also opened ONE charging station (best network ever!) sold a second compliance car no one cares about (e-NV200), had another 2.5 concept cars, and tried getting a hashtag to trend on Twitter (people still use hashtags, right?)


Tesla fanboy?

No company sold more EVs than the Nissan-Renault Group/Alliance.

No mainstream car maker is/was more committed to the category in the past years.

These are facts:


“Nissan-Renault Group/Alliance.”

So, it takes an alliance to win the title? Nissan or Renault can’t do it alone, huh?


If you look at the European market. Renault is number 1, Nissan number 2 and Tesla follows


Now add Mitsubishi to the mix.

Huge strength for all 3 companies.


@MMF: If you look at the chart in the link you will see that Nissan-Renault-Mitsu are close to being one entity (there may be even a full merger down the road).

Owning almost 50% in cross-shareholdings is way beyond a “simple” alliance.


PS: Same for common car platforms. Quoting myself:

“Because Renault-Nissan is so under-reported, many investors may have also missed that future ZOE and LEAF models (as well as future Mitsubishi EVs) will be based on a common platform to achieve considerable cost savings – first starting in 2020 with the new ZOE (Challenges magazine, source in French).”


That’s really harsh.

I was bit cynical of their claim also, but it’s true, that merged companies histories become part of there merged entity. If not, what argument do you have to disassociate them? It’s like divesting yourself of the history you don’t like, and keeping the one your prefer, which would invite cynicism in other circumstances, especially if the history of one of the companies was bad.

On the concept cars, they are research cars. They are investing in something they think might have a future, and or wanting to make a difference in-regards to pollution. etc. Well good for them for having the foresight. Now compare with other automakers at the time. If they all were doing this research, today we would probably would be further along the EV path.

Save your criticism for the ICE makers who are making no difference, and those who have no history of every trying to make a difference.

John Ray

And here’s the Teslabot – right on cue.


Haters gonna hate. It’s just stupid that they hate the company who has the best selling EV worldwide.


Lou Grinzo

I’ve driven a Leaf since 3/2013 and love it. And I would love to have a Tesla S or 3 in time, assuming Tesla gets off their butt and opens a facility reasonably close to me. I love BEVs and truly don’t get this rampant, poisonous us-vs-them thing we have with our fellow plug heads.

When I see ANY BEV or long-range PHEV (like the Volt) on the road, I smile, because it’s another small but desperately needed step in the right direction. That’s enough for me.


Don’t forget to mention resting on their bee-hinds since 2011 with the 1st gen Leaf, only to have the rest of the EV world catch up and pass them by, all the while still thinking they are the only player in the game..


Nissan has sold more BEV’s than the rest.

Nissan is a major leader and player.

Great things to come over the next several years from all camps.


Lol. Nailed it. 70 years and all they have to show for it is the heinously ugly Leaf!


Nothing more to add.

Dan B.

Where is the plug-in Frontier or Pathfinder – something with true 4×4 (not AWD)?


Companies are conservative. Even Nissan only has one BEV car and one BEV van, don’t think they have any hybrids. Renault has three BEV, do they have any hybrids? BMW has one BEV and a bunch of hybrids. VW has BEV and some hybrids. In fact most seem to have at least hybrids, which is better than nothing. Mazda and Suburu are ones that I can’t think have any hybrids or BEVs.

So while Nissan Leaf might have sold the most, it is not alone. Maybe they could have sold a lot more if they had the refresh model a year or so ago, but maybe it just takes a decade for people to understand and be ready for this change. No doubt Tesla has done a lot to bring electric cars to the forefront.

For me the biggest problem is we are subsiding EV’s when we should be penalising ICE. If gas was costed the way it should be then you would find a lot more interest in EV’s. Rules about emissions in cities will do a lot in this regard.


These companies can’t be conservative anymore

It’s going to be a domino effect.


There is nothing unusable in company’s seeing a moral trend in the world and trying to write there own history according to that, it is always the story you tell and not what you left out that builds your reputation. f.eks the billion of oil consuming cars they produced.

But you also must credit Nissan for introducing the first usable BEV, this was a bold move, I consider that a success!

but I just didn’t see much development in the Nissan leaf on the last 6 years, this is probably very normal in gas car, that you make small tweaks and some design changes but keep the same technology, but that does not apply to EV at least not when it is a new product on the marked, there must be some rapid development and Nissan has failed in that respect.

I sure hope the New leaf gains some of it lost technology, specially on the range, we need competition, I hate to see TESLA becoming the new Microsoft!


Tesla is becoming the new Apple.
Microsoft is/was near monopolistic.


Nissan “Innovation that Excites” – about 7 years later in case of the 2018 Leaf 2.0, or 70 years later, in EVery thing else, that is a Nissan electric automotive propulsion system.
Hitting Nissan over the head, for their EV complacency, over the history of the past many OPEC ICE controlled decades, is counterintuitive. This ICE to EV transition needs to attract, with inspiration, the needed first 10% devoted EV early adopters, that will take us over the much needed 50/50 split to sustainable non polluting ground transportation.