Throwback Thursday: Mr. Rogers And Electric Vehicles Circa 1981

SEP 24 2015 BY JAY COLE 20

It was February 18, 1981 when Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood put the focus on electric cars for the youth of America, specifically on a small, local electric car builder that was well ahead of his time.

Mr. Rogers - Ahead Of His Time Once Again

Mr. Rogers – Ahead Of His Time Once Again

Mr. Rogers starts the episode with a little show-and-tell of a model of an electric car back at his place, before taking a ride in the real deal  – a truck-car EV that today would surely set a new record for worst aero dynamic efficiency.

After the quick drive, Mr. Rogers he gets a walkthrough of just how an electric car is built.

Range of the ’81 special with 18 lead acid batteries?  Fred says about 50 miles – and you know Mr. Rogers never lies!

The test drive and “how to build an EV” tutorial starts at the 2:50 mark.

Special bonus:  A rare glimpse of Mr. Rogers jogging (3:00) in what can only be described as a Super Dave-esque track suit that I myself may (or may not) have owned as a younger person in the 80s.

Bonus 2: Early “reboot” episodes featured Mr. Rogers actually entering his house from the neighborhood before breaking into his popular theme song.


TheTechInformist, Hat tip to Big Solar/Bobby C!

Categories: Concepts, General


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20 Comments on "Throwback Thursday: Mr. Rogers And Electric Vehicles Circa 1981"

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I wonder where the cars they built are today.


Don’t fall for Fred Rogers and his Liberal Electric Vehicle Agenda. — Fox News and most Ultra-Conservatives. 😉

Actually, one of the conservative committee chariman, who initially wanted to ban public funding of PBS at the time, tripled the funding instead after watching Fred Rogers testify, bringing a sampling of his shows as evidence. He said, “You gave me goosebumps. You singlehandedly have paid for all PBS programs”.

Thank you, Jay, for the wonderful throwback.

There was a 1968 TV show called Land of the Giants about little people stuck in a world were everything was 12 times bigger then it was on earth. And the little people would sometimes drive around in giant sized toy cars. The funny thing about the giant toy cars was that they had giant 55 gallon barrel sized lead acid batteries on the backs of them. Granted would any body know if a lead acid battery was like this would it really work this way

Here are the two episodes this takes place in,p0,d0 and,p42,d0

Happy Throwback Thursday!

Wow! Thanks for sharing this with us. It makes me wonder how many of us may have seen this and went on to become lovers of EVs in some part with seeds like this gently planted in our noggins!

Fred Rogers was an amazing human being. It sometimes surprises me to see some people today still mocking Mr. Rogers and saying very nasty things about him. He really made an impact on children’s lives and I’m glad he is still remembered as an innovator and champion in that regard.

I went on and watched this entire episode and in one 1/2 hour TV show, he managed to address kid’s emotional struggles over divorce, electric cars, child disabilities and architecture! The age-appropriate ability and sensitivity Fred Rogers showed in dealing with such important issues puts one in awe.

Yes, I watched the entire episode myself; its a shame Mr. Rogers died so young. Besides the sensitive way he dealt with sensitive topics, he also encouraged inquisitiveness in his young audience by mentioning he counted 18 (108 volts worth) of batteries. Older children probably figured that out after he mentioned it, regarding the larger truck vehicle, now 34 years old. I really am impressed by 3 things about Rogers: 1). The difficult subjects one might find in some families. 2). The intelligent way he gets to know someone with a quite severe handicap. 3). Especially, the non-threatening way he deals with his young friends, and indirectly instructs them to be non-threatening amoungst others. And sometimes he would help parents out, stating that one didn’t always need the latest pre-manufactured, expensive toy. He’d encourage use of an old milk carton, cardboard boxes and scissors, stating that a manufactured toy could only be what it is, but an old milk carton you could make into anything, encouraging the child’s creativity. What a refreshing REAL WORLD, educational program that was so much more a productive use of the child’s time than playing games encouraging shooting each other. Now boys will always play… Read more »

Fred Rogers was the best of men.

I grew up watching his show in the late 60s. My wife had the privilege of meeting him once, since he was affiliated with the same program at the University of Pittsburgh as she was enrolled in at the time.

Features like this certainly spawned a generation of engineers, etc, who never realized the impact he had on their lives.

Did anyone notice the Saab in the background?
I am surprised it never occurred to them to convert the Saab – light, streamlined & beautiful!

“And all you do is push on the *gas* pedal and that’ll drive the powah to move the cah. And there’s the brake on the fluoh to stop it.”

Kids in Michigan are taught that they speak nearly “the King’s English”…lol…but they are blind to the fact that folks not from those parts can peg a Michiganite from miles away. What I especially like are when we watch those Autoline Detroit videos on YouTube or like today, when I called a friend in Michigan and listen to those long Rrrrrs. Such as the word: “CaRrrr”…heh heh….”Yes, We ARrrr looking inside the cARrrr at the new stARrrrter button…”….hahaha…

Actually we folks in Seattle have no accent at all. Get in a New York taxi and the guy says “Hey! You must be from the Pacific Northwest!”…I say, “How did you know?” He answers, “You guys have no accent at all out deRrr”. “You from WisCAHHNson?” I say… “Naw, Michigan!” He replies!

So – don’t we all get a kick out of each others accents now?

Here is “The Michigan Pronounciation Guide” I found online:

If you want to hear some great Michigan accents, head to the UP. Detroit area also has it’s own dialect. SW Michigan starts to pick up on the Chicago accent.

I have relatives from the Pac NW and they have an accent to me. I don’t think there is such a thing as “no accent”.

I think that accent is referred to as “Standard American English”.


Only available in the Land of Make Believe.

Until now . . .

I wish he’d mentioned what company was building EVs in the episode. I’m curious what happened to that company…

We saw a couple home conversions of ICE cars to EV at the Drive Electric week show we went to in Diamond Bar. One was using lithium ion packs but I think the other might have been lead acid… A guy doing a presentation also told us about his VW Bus lead acid conversion which I think he said got 40 miles to a charge. Individuals and small companies have been doing it for ages. Not sure why it never managed to grow… probably because lead acid doesn’t give you much over 50 miles and other battery types were way too expensive. But really, we’ve had lead acid EVs in the form of golf carts and similar sized utility vehicles probably since before this episode was aired. So maybe the real problem is you couldn’t make the vehicles as large and fast and presumably as safe as ICE cars using lead acid energy density. Then again, the first generation Toyota RAV4 EV was lead acid, so maybe that’s not true either.

It’s mentioned at the end of the episode:

Electric Vehicles Industries

But I couldn’t find anything about them, so it was probably a tiny company that’s no longer around.

Not that different from some of the small industrial EVs built today. Like Cushmans, Columbia ParCar, and offering from CanEv-

That is exactly what they reminded me of too.

This episode of Mr. Rodgers appears as episode 1 season 1 on Netflix Kids. It isnt the actual first episode of Mr. Rodgers but that is how it is listed on Netflix Kids.