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British Industrial History

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Electric Van, Wagon and Omnibus Co

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1906. Launch of the prototype electrobus on 18th April 1906. Edward Ernest Lehwess, the "moving spirit" behind the electrobus enterprise is sitting inside the bus behind the driver.

1905 The Company was incorporated as the Motor Omnibus and Waggon Co, company number 83,846.[1] Company does no business under this name. The company was registered by the Motor Car Emporium.[2]

The prototype electrobus was supplied by the Motor Car Emporium of Holland Park. It had a 14 hp electric motor made by Thomson Houston at the company’s Paris works. The battery for this prototype was supplied by the X Accumulator Company.[3]

1907. Name changed to Electric Van Wagon and Omnibus Co. Dr Edward Lehwess and Captain Edward Locock become directors. Lehwess draws £420 in expenses just to change the company name.[4]

At the first international commercial vehicle motor show in March, held at Olympia, the Electric Van Wagon and Omnibus Co’s display includes a light electric van, two 1-ton vans, a five ton heavy wagon that can run 35 miles on a single charge and an electric ambulance.[5] All these vehicles were powered by American batteries, from the Gould Storage Battery Corporation of Depew, New York State.[6] The company’s registered offices are at 14-15 Bedford Chambers, Covent Garden, offices rented to Locock.

The company signed a contract in May to supply the London Electrobus Co with 50 electrobuses.[7] The company’s address is Trafalgar Buildings, Northumberland Avenue.

In November, Eastbourne Borough Council considered a proposal from the Electric Van Wagon and Omnibus about running electrobuses in the town.[8]

All the later electrobuses were assembled by the Electric Van Wagon and Omnibus Company.[9] The batteries for these electrobuses were supplied by the Gould Storage Battery Corporation of Depew, New York State. The batteries gave the bus a limited range of up to 40 miles, enough to make four return journeys between Victoria and Liverpool Street, a distance of close to 4 miles, without risking a flat battery.[10]

1908. The Electric Van Wagon and Omnibus Co is listed in the London telephone directory at 1 Earl Street, Westminster, SW.

1908. The Electric Van Wagon and Omnibuses Co was as renamed the Electric Vehicle Company.[11] It had a small works at 158a Norwood Road, West Norwood[12], premises previous occupied by Brotherhood-Crocker Motors.




The Electrobus compiled by Mick Hamer

The electrobus was the first practical battery-electric bus.

The prototype electrobus was supplied to the London Electrobus Co by the Motor Car Emporium of Holland Park. It had a 14 hp electric motor made by Thomson Houston at the company’s Paris works. The battery for this prototype was supplied by the X Accumulator Company.[13]

All the later electrobuses were assembled by the Electric Van Wagon and Omnibus Co.[14] The batteries for these electrobuses were supplied by the Gould Storage Battery Corporation of Depew, New York State.

Gould’s engineers and the electrobus company worked out a slick way of extending the range.[15] After the morning shift the electrobus went to the garage and swapped its exhausted batteries for fresh ones. The changeover took just three minutes.[16]

By the end of 1907 the Gould batteries were being phased out and replaced with batteries made by the Tudor Accumulator Company.[17]

The electrobus was very popular with the travelling public. In 1908 Douglas Fox, the foremost engineer of his day, gave a paper to the British Association for the Advancement of Science meeting, which concluded “the electrobus is probably a more formidable rival than the petrol omnibus, not only to the horse omnibus, but also to the tramway”. [18]

The electrobus was the first double-deck bus to test a bus with a roof over the top deck,[19] but the police refused to license the bus.

The only other place to have an electrobus service were the twin towns of Brighton and Hove. Under pressure from the local councils to cut motor bus noise the Brighton, Hove and Preston United Omnibus Co bought four electrobuses from the Electric Vehicle Co in 1908 and 1909 and built a new garage and charging station to maintain its growing fleet. [20]

After the London Electrobus Company went into liquidation in 1910, the Brighton, Hove and Preston United Omnibus Co bought eight second-hand London electrobuses. The rest of the London buses were broken up for spares. [21]

The last electrobus stopped running in April 1917. Thomas Tilling, which had taken over the Brighton, Hove and Preston United Co in 1916 [22] said that a lack of spares had forced them to stop running electrobuses.[23]



See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. Investors’ Guardian, 18 March 1905, p. 273. Companies House still has a file for the company in its archives, but it has been weeded to the point of irrelevance
  2. Automotor Journal, 7 December 1907, p. 1781
  3. Motor Traction, 25 April 1906, pp. 363-64; Commercial Motor, 26 April 1906, p. 162.
  4. Automotor Journal, 7 December 1907, p. 1781
  5. Commercial Motor, 28 February 1907, p. 579
  6. Motor Traction, 16 March 1907, p. 303
  7. London Electrobus Company, annual report, dated 27 November 1907.
  8. Minutes of Motor Omnibus Committee, 11 November 1907, East Sussex Record Office
  9. Motor Traction, 16 March 1907, p. 340.
  10. The Electrician, 15 November 1907, pp. 189-90.
  11. Commercial Motor, 25 June 1908, p. 401.
  12. London Electrobus Company prospectus, dated 21 April 1908.
  13. Motor Traction, 25 April 1906, pp. 363-64; Commercial Motor, 26 April 1906, p. 162.
  14. Motor Traction, 16 March 1907, p. 340.
  15. Automotor Journal, 28 May 1908, p. 411.
  16. Electrical Review, 20 December 1907, p. 999.
  17. Electrical Review, 20 December 1907, p. 999 and Tudor Accumulator Co]
  18. The Engineer 1908/11/20 pp 550-52
  19. The Engineer 1908/12/04
  20. The Electrician, 25 June 1909, p. 421.
  21. Mick Hamer, A Most Deliberate Swindle, RedDoor, 2017, p. 183.
  22. http://history.buses.co.uk/history/cohistory/welcome.htm.
  23. Mick Hamer, A Most Deliberate Swindle, RedDoor, 2017, p. 197.