Where’s Robin: 1974 Battronic Van

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Thanks to reader Larry D for sending us word of this very unusual 1974 Battronic electric van for sale on craigslist in Seymour, Connecticut.

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As you can see from the first photo here, this truck was originally owned and operated by UI (United Illuminating), the electric utility based in Orange, Connecticut (and is my current electric provider, or should I say, my “electric current provider”). UI provides electricity to about 325,000 households in the Bridgeport-New Haven area.

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This truck was built by Battronic, which was a joint venture of the Boyertown Auto Body Works and the UK based Smith Delivery Vehicles, Ltd., built its first electric delivery truck in 1964.

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Battronic worked with General Electric from 1973 to 1983 to produce 175 utility vans for use in the utility industry to demonstrate the capabilities of battery powered vehicles. Battronic also developed and produced about 20 passenger buses in the mid 1970s.

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I found this very interesting comprehensive performance report on a sample Battronic truck done by NASA, which provides a range of data on the performance of this early electric vehicle. Apparently it was able to go from zero to 30 mph in 11 seconds.

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This vehicle had a payload capacity of 800 pounds.

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If you are interested in electric vehicles, there’s a good history of them here – and this site (Electric Vehicles News) has a ton of valuable information on current and future EVs as well.

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This particular, somewhat decent looking Battronic van is missing its batteries, so the seller cannot verify whether it runs or not, or even if it is complete. It seems likely that working on this truck will be difficult and challenging. Perhaps a retired UI staffer who knows more about it could be located in this area.

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Aside from the big hole in the back door, the truck does look fairly solid. But how did it work and what would it need to be made operable again? These are big questions for any potential buyer.

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I agree with the seller that this piece of vehicle history ought to be saved. Maybe this should go to a museum that can properly care for it, and eventually bring it back to driving condition. Now that electric vehicles have found a true place in our transit system, more people will be interested in some of the development work that took place over the years prior to the popularity of Prius, Tesla and Volt, among others. But is this particular electric vehicle worth saving, and if so, by whom?

Fast Finds

Comments

  1. Mvm

    I would say mix it up with the C4 Corvette “Go-Kart”

  2. Andrew

    What a great little van!

  3. Fred

    Drop it on a Prius chassis.

  4. Scotty G Staff

    Hey, I bet that a battery-powered minibike would fit in the back of that…

    • David Wilk Member

      Your minibike might go faster than this truck too.

  5. Kuzspike

    The Boyertown Museum of Historical Vehicles (located in old Boyertown Auto Body Works factory buildings) has a couple of these in their collection and would most likely provide guidence in the restoration.

  6. Paul Raymond

    My family milk delivery company, Maplehurst Farms in Lincoln, RI had one for approx. 8 years back in the 1960’s. The Exide batteries on both side were huge. When you plugged it in for recharge at night, the noise was unbelievable . The charging system had to regenerate high amounts of amperage. Yes, it did 25 mph. It was used in the city areas.

    Extremely quiet and easy to repair.

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