Electric vehicles aren’t coming; they’re here. While Tesla gets all the press, there’s no shortage of EV or PHEVs from major OEMs. I’d put the technology on-par with early 90s cell phones: expensive and limited, but no longer outlandish. However, a couple gas crises, increasingly lame OEM cars and an uptick in under-occupied engineers during the 70s-80s caused small-run EV conversions and series hybrids to bloom like toxic algae. On paper, the potential is there: take something light, drop in a forklift motor and pile of batteries and you’re no longer dependent on Big oil! Man! Alas, every EV prior to GM’s EV1 suuuuuuuucked. Detractors claim the Model S’s battery technology still limits the practicality of the car, but it’s as though they’ve forgotten how lame these things were: sub-sub compact, 50mph top speed and maybe 50 mile range.
That said, we don’t mock the atlatl for being a crappy crossbow, we appreciate its place in history. Same with this early Marathon Electric hybrid prototype. Based on the Briggs and Stratton motor, and diagram in the article from the listing, this appears to be a series-hybrid setup. Somewhat cleverly, the rear of the vehicle is actually a trailer chassis (for holding the battery weight) while the front has some kind of FWD drivetrain of unknown origin. Rest assured, this thing serves no practical purpose that a golf cart or UTV couldn’t best it at, but I’m still a little curious what kind of range and performance it could get with a new set of high-capacity polymer batteries (they’re not included, of course) and a more modern generator. Might also big a cool instructional demo vehicle for a high school or college physics class. Not sure it’s $5,000 worth of cool instructional vehicle, though.
Seriously, though, check out article from The Montreal Gazette from 1980. It’s deliciously anachronistic, but eerily similar to today.