Japanese automakers developed an electric car in 1949 that could travel 200 km on a single charge.
Since at least 2013, a copypasta meme (i.e. a post shared on social media through users copying and pasting text) postulating that the Japanese presciently built an electric car in 1949 capable of traveling 200 kilometers (just over 124 miles) on a single charge has circulated widely online.
Here is a link an example from the meme, posted on Twitter in October 2013:
Other social media posts included images of the vehicle:
The meme has likely garnered renewed attention in 2022 because fuel prices have surged, sparking strong interest among consumers to purchase electric vehicles. These messages, and others like them, contained factual information and inaccurate information. But the main idea is true – soon after World War II, Japanese automakers developed and sold an electric vehicle, long before modern versions became popular in the 2010s.
The vehicle in the image above was developed by a Japanese company called Tokyo Electro Automobile Co., which later became Prince Motors, Ltd. Prince Motors would merge with automaker Nissan in 1966.
According to Nissan, the vehicle was launched in 1947 (not 1949), two years after Japan‘s surrender in World War II. Meanwhile, according to Nissan’s website, “Japan suffered from a severe shortage of oil, goods and food while there was a surplus of electricity supply as there were almost no household appliances or major consumers of electricity.
The vehicle “achieved the range of 96 km (nearly 60 miles) [as opposed to 200km, as stated in the meme above] and top speed of 35 km/h (almost 22 mph)”, and made a good taxi until 1951.
Due to the post-war oil shortage, Japanese start-ups produced electric vehicles. The vehicle in the image above was dubbed TAMA and was restored to its original running condition in 2010 when Nissan launched its modern electric vehicle, LEAF. You can see the restored 1947 vehicle in action in a promotional video created by Nissan:
“Forget the leaf, the 1947 Tama electric car was Nissan’s first electric vehicle.” CarsGuide, https://www.carsguide.com.au/oversteer/forget-the-leaf-the-1947-tama-electric-car-was-nissans-first-ev-68563. Accessed April 18, 2022.
Nissan | Heritage Collection | Tama electric car. https://www.nissan-global.com/EN/HERITAGE/tama_electric.html. Accessed April 18, 2022.