17 Batteries Needed: 1981 Ford Escort Electrica

070116 Barn Finds - 1981 Ford Escort Electrica - 2

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Buckle your seatbelts, this one may throw you for a loop! This is a 1981 Ford Escort Electrica and it’s a rare EV made by Jet Industries. It’s in Hamilton, Ohio and is listed on eBay with a Buy It Now price of $1,500 or make an offer. The Electrica would have been an $11,500 car when new, relating to around $30,000 in today’s dollars.

070116 Barn Finds - 1981 Ford Escort Electrica - 1

Jet Industries is most well known to me as the company that made the ElectraVan, based on the Subaru Sambar 600 van. They were based in Austin, Texas and the company converted around 3,000 vehicles to battery power in the wake of the energy crisis of the early-1970s. They were in business making EVs from 1977 until sometime in the 1980s and the Ford Escort and Mercury Lynx were two of their most popular conversions, turning them into the Electrica.

The last big, national surge in interest for battery-powered vehicles was around 1980-1981, the second big energy crunch. The US Department of Energy tried to figure a way out of burning gas and oil in vehicles and they awarded contracts to four companies to develop and sell battery-powered vehicles; one of which was Jet Industries. The program didn’t last long, the battery technology wasn’t up to the task in those days and, of course, as if on cue, gas prices plummeted, as they always do when some new technology threatens the oil industry. Those factors put an end to any further serious attempts at EVs for a couple of decades when, again, gas prices started to rise. It’s a never-ending cycle, unfortunately, and it’ll probably never change in our lifetime.

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This car is a little rugged, rust-wise. If it could have stayed in Austin, Texas it would most likely be in great condition. But, since Ford made millions of this generation Escort, finding parts and pieces, like a rear bumper, shouldn’t be a huge issue. The Electrica would have had a top speed of 70 mph and a range of around 50 miles at 35 mph; not bad, especially for 1981 technology. Here’s a little drive and a walk-through of an Electrica on YouTube.

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The interior looks like it’s in decent condition. Well, the seating area, which consists of just two seats. The rear, maybe not so much. You can see a lot of sun damage there, but again those should be Escort parts so you may be able to locate new interior bits as needed. The rust would have to be fixed, and of course, this car needs batteries: “16 6V batteries and one 12V battery”, so plan on doubling the asking price for new batteries.

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Jet Industries “mated a Prestolite 96v traction motor to the original Ford transaxle, fabricated battery boxes front and rear, and added a speed controller and an on-board battery charger.” This car, and most of them, used a 4-speed transmission and you can see that there are no batteries, either front or back. This shouldn’t be an impossible restoration and it would sure be an unusual one, there is no question about it. I’m guessing that there wouldn’t be much interest in this car even if it were in mint condition let alone in its present condition, but I could be wrong. Would any of you take on a project like this one? If so, how would you upgrade the systems?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. DAN

    and it’s …..gone!

    Like 0
  2. Red'sResto

    Perfect candidate for a flux capacitor swap.

    Like 0
  3. JW454

    Until today, I’ve never heard of this car or the company that made it. Hamilton, Ohio is less than twenty miles south of my house. Maybe the problem wasn’t their products it was their marketing. A company building cars twenty miles away and a life long car guy has never heard of them? They must have been trying to keep it a secret. This gives me something to research.

    Like 0
    • Steve

      “Jet Industries is most well known to me as the company that made the ElectraVan, based on the Subaru Sambar 600 van. They were based in Austin, Texas…”

      Like 0
  4. Steve

    “16 6v batteries and one 12v battery”…I would be a rebel and run 8 12v batteries instead…LOL

    Like 0

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