The day's second talk was Battery Electric Road Vehicles: the Early Years by Keith Roberts
Keith Roberts is the author of Electric Avenue - The Story of Morrison-Electricar, and has been fascinated by battery electric vehicles since starting as an electrician with ICI.
The best known era is 1928 to 1970, whereas far less is known about earlier developments, which is what Keith is interested in. He dates the start of motorised transport in the UK from 1896 and the Locomotives on Highways Act. After this a small number of electric cars and commercial vehicles began to be imported from the US, where fleets of electric taxicabs were operating in New York from 1887 (electric cars were common in the US until the 1920s and in 1927 it was reported that one electric taxicab had covered 180,000 miles in 24 years).
Keith showed us pictures of a variety of electric vehicles, including those run by Harrods, Gamages and Lyons & Co, who all had fleets of electric vans prior to WWI, as well as heavier vehicles (2.5 tons) which were run by local authorities, breweries etc.
During WWI, the shortage of horses and skilled labour combined with petrol shortages meant that electric vehicles were very useful to their owners. However, after the Armistice their use went into decline. Attendees were asked to speculate on the reasons, and the example was raised of Modec in Coventry, who produced electric vehicles from 2006 to 2011. Problems included the cost of replacement batteries, lack of interest from businesses, a lack of knowledge generally and a lack of post-sales service.
Full transcript of my notes available for anyone who's interested.
After that, we had a break for lunch, and time in which to explore the Museum. I worked my way backwards from the conference room, and found a range of interesting exhibits, including the new Jaguar Heritage Gallery.
I also found some shiny motorbikes:
Bicycles and a parachutist:
And a stack of tractors: