Pick of the Day: 1957 Henney Kilowatt

With all this EV stuff going on, it’s a good time to be reminded that this stuff isn’t new. You may have already read about how electric cars were a thing at the dawn of the automotive industry and how they were popular with women because they were clean and silent. Yet to many of us, EVs are those strange triangular 1970s cars often found with flat tires in random driveways. Have postwar EVs always been quirky? Judging by our Pick of the Day, just maybe. It is a 1957 Henney Kilowatt for sale by a Texas dealer on ClassicCars.com. (Click the link to view the listing)

If you think this car looks like a Renault Dauphine, you wouldn’t be wrong. The Dauphine was one of the biggest sellers of the import wave of the 1950s — in fact, Renault sales beat Volkswagen in 1959 (source: Ward’s 1960 Yearbook) — but that’s neither here nor there. National Union Electric Corporation had the idea to produce 100 electric cars and had the resources to do it. Its plan was to order 100 Renault Dauphines without powertrain, then have several of its subsidiaries — Eureka Williams (for the electric propulsion system), Exide (for the batteries) and Henney Motor Company (coachbuilder) — develop the conversion. Dauphines were light, which worked in its favor when the electric motor was installed in the back and the batteries were installed up front. Christened the Henney Kilowatt, the reconfigured car was marketed to electric public utility companies, though it was available for purchase by private individuals.  

The initial version was powered by 12 six-volt batteries, which could get up to 40 mph and travel 40 miles. A second version added two batteries and 20 to the speed and distance.

Note the power indicators on the center of the dashboard.

There is a lot of conflicting information on these cars, and it seems the seller of this H-K on ClassicCars.com may be confused as well. Though all the information online seems to point to these cars being produced in 1959-60, the seller has it listed as a 1957. Nonetheless, the seller claims it “is clean in and out, with the restoration done around 10 years ago” after spending most of its life in storage. It is fitted with a common three-pronged plug so it can be charged just about anywhere except Whole Foods. This one’s the 12-battery version, so Hunter Thompson-inspired jaunts to Vegas ain’t happening.

With 22,590 miles on the odometer, it’s a true low-mileage gem. Supposedly, 47 were sold (32 to electric utilities), with a handful (single digits) that still exist. For $39,500, we can’t promise you’ll get tax credits, but you’ll get credit for having the only one for miles around — at least 60, we bet.

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.

The ClassicCars.com Journal

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