The Original Henney Kilowatt EV Prototype!

Now here’s something you don’t see every day, a 1960 Henney Kilowatt electric car, reportedly the prototype car on which the very limited series was based. We recently featured Henney Kilowatt serial number 0001, which you can read about here, and it appears this one is being offered by the same seller. It’s available here on eBay in Murray, Kentucky, with bidding up to $4,500.

Only 47 Henney Kilowatt electric cars were sold in 1959 and 1960, but 100 were reportedly built. If this is a prototype, it’s not surprising that it accumulated only 696 miles, but not many Kilowatts saw heavy road use. The technology was, let’s say, evolving. Produced by the National Union Electric Company, the Henney Kilowatt was based on the period Renault Dauphine, and the cars were custom built by Henney—better known for its Packard ambulances.

Victor Wouk of Caltech did the powertrain, which initially used a 36-volt system that employed 18 two-volt golf cart batteries in series. They were lucky to reach 40 mph, so highway use was out. The wonderfully named Eureka Williams redesigned the car for 1960 with a 72-volt system, and those models could reach 60 mph and cover 60 miles on a charge.

Needless to say, what we have here is a very early car, with the 36-volt system. Question for the vendor: If it’s a very early car, shouldn’t it be a 1959 instead of a 1960 as advertised? Whichever, the condition is in line with the extremely low mileage. But the car has clearly suffered from the extra-long storage, with what appears to have been rodent infestation or maybe a foreign object tearing the headliner apart. There’s rust-through on one rocker panel. The electric equipment is suffering from surface rust, and there are no batteries installed. Otherwise, the car is very nice, with an intact interior and shiny paint marred in some places by over-polishing.

While it’s probably possible to get the 1960s GE electric motor and amp meters working again, a new owner might want to modernize with today’s far more evolved EV technology. How about a Tesla Kilowatt project? The basic truth here is that the Henney was a brave attempt to revive electric vehicle production, which had been dormant since the heyday of the Baker and Detroit Electric in the 1910s and early 1920s. But gas was cheap in 1959, and Americans weren’t really interested. The vendor says the Henney was “the original pre-production predecessor [emphasis, his] to all modern electric cars, including the Tesla Model S and the Tesla CyberTruck.” Frankly, that’s going a bit far, but it was a pioneering model.

The Henney, even with off-the-shelf electric controllers, motors and proprietary batteries, could keep up with modern traffic and go at least 100 miles on a charge. And it wouldn’t cost a ton of money.

As previously stated, this seller is offering the other Kilowatt, which they claim has even fewer miles than this one. The two cars even make the Henney’s Wikipedia page. It is stated, “Of the documented Henney Kilowatts produced, it is estimated that there are between four and eight still in existence. The very first two Henney Kilowatts—the serial number 0001 and the original prototype (serial number “EXPERIMENTAL”) were stored by company executives for decades until being sold to a private U.S. automobile collector in the early 2000s.” That’s presumably who’s selling them now. There are a lot of questions in need of answers with this interesting EV. But the real question you need to ask yourself is, would you buy one of these, and if so, what would you do with it?

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Comments

  1. Redsresto

    Mustang Mach-E swap?

    Like 2
    • David Ulrey

      Slap yourself. Then give Ford a right and proper a$$ kicking for making an electric SUV/Crossover, whatever it is, and putting the Mustang name to it.

      Like 1
  2. ILoveCarz

    Tesla Model S AWD four-motor swap. 0-60 in 2.8 seconds sound good?

    Like 1
  3. Jay

    Sunbeam motors has a drivetrain for this.

    No, it is not the blender company, do not go there.

    Like 6
  4. Ken Carney

    Sure wished my stepdad could see this!
    He was one of the engineers at Eureka
    Williams that tested and installed the
    more powerful EW motor, which as you said Jim, could top out 60 MPH and had
    a range of 65 miles if driven prudently.
    4K to me seems like a fair price for a piece of history like this. However, I
    would upgrade to modern batteries and
    electronics on this to make it safe for
    driving around town. Seeing this car
    makes me wonder if my stepdad may
    well have driven this car to see where
    improvements would have to be made
    toake the concept a more viable one.
    He probably would’ve been the one who
    told his colleagues that 36 volts just
    wouldn’t get the job done. It was
    probably he and his team that persuaded
    management to opt for 72 volts in order
    to use the more powerful motor I mentioned earlier to power the Eureka
    built units. I seem to recall that the
    president of Illinois State University bought one for his own use. It made the
    local papers when he did that and only
    fueled the optimism at the Eureka plant
    that they were on the right track. Arthur
    Godfrey added fuel to the fire when he
    bought one too. My stepdad said that
    nearly 200 cars were built before the
    project was cancelled in late 1960.
    Thanks Jim for bringing his work to
    light. He and his team were true pioneers and seeing your article makes
    me even more proud of what he achieved.

    Like 13
  5. ken tilly UK Member

    Wheels and tyres look a trifle oversize for this little Renault, otherwise it looks like a fun car.

    • jerry z

      I think the larger wheels/tires were to compensate for the extra weight of the batteries.

      Like 1
  6. Moparman Member

    The Renault Dauphine reminds me of a Panhard. Was there any “cross pollination” between the two companies? :-)

  7. redwagon

    This looks pretty cool and much nicer than the white one from a few days ago. I am surprised at myself by how much I like the styling of the Renault Dauphine in black! That color works much better than the typical white, red or light blue I have seen in other photos.

    Looking at the photos in the eBay advert I notice that there are rust spots on the inside of the trunk and hood about where the battery terminals would be. Considering there are less than 700 miles on the vehicle I doubt the steel would hold up to restoration to period batteries.

    I would be fun to restore it, drive it, use it, take to car shows, etc but damn don’t hit a deer or another vehicle.

    Like 2
    • xrotaryguy

      Agreed! I usually don’t care what color a car is but, in this case, the black makes a world of difference!

      Like 1
  8. Alex

    My dad worked for National Union Electric and was involved in the Electric Dauphine project. I remember my uncle having a Dauphine which I rode in as a child. Being used to riding in big Ford Country Squire wagons all my life it scared the hell out of me riding in that car because my uncle would stop short of the car in front of us, only a few feet away.

    Like 1
  9. MARK

    Is it still for sale?

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