An electric car like my Dad’s? Only 75 years later

I have been hankering after an electric car for some time. I got one of the early Prius hybrids in 2003 and enjoyed it until passing on to my grandson. It is still running to this day. After looking into electric cars a few years ago, I gave up for several reasons.

  1. No room in our garage on the mainland to charge, and no electrical outlets where we park to go over to our Island home (Dewees)
  2. No trunk big enough for my golf clubs
  3. Electricity in South Carolina comes mainly from coal, so I would not be saving the planet.

So, instead of saving the planet, I got patriotic and bought an American car, a small Ford. It hasn’t been a great success, so I am again looking electric, since the field is expanding so rapidly. (I am working on the above constraints).  The Chevy Bolt looks good, all electric plug-in (not hybrid), 2017 car of the year, with a range of 240 miles. But dealers in this area don’t know when they can get them.

So, where does my Dad fit into this? He was a country doctor in rural England, and an amateur engineer. During the war we could not get petrol (gasoline), but did have a supply of diesel, because we had to generate our own electricity. Dad promptly converted  a regular old car to run off batteries, which we could charge at home. Dad was fond of his many cars, and they all had names. This one was christened “Cowgoose”, heaven knows why. It had maximum range of 20 miles, which was enough to get me to the local school (and back), and to do house calls in the local farms. We chugged around with impressive blue flashes coming up behind the back seat (where I was usually privileged to sit). It was very impressive at night.

The history of electric cars in USA is fascinating, if a little scary. GM made one called GMEV1. It was successful, in California, but was crushed (literally) by alternative providers. You may want to watch a 2006 movie (available on Netflix) called “Who killed the electric car”. Look it up on wikipedia “The film details the California Air Resources Board‘s reversal of the mandate after relentless pressure and suits from automobile manufacturers, continual pressure from the oil industry, orchestrated hype over a future hydrogen car, and finally the George W. Bush administration“.

Times is changing. Happy to take any advice.

And here is “Cowgoose” with Dad, brother John and me (in the flashy back seat).

11 Responses to An electric car like my Dad’s? Only 75 years later

  1. Brucie Harry says:

    How interesting. Cowgoose is pretty sporty looking. I saw a small Tesler recently. I know the large one has a range of 210 or 220 miles which is cutting it close to get from Chlt to Dewees.

  2. Nicky Richardson says:

    I remember that photo. You need to think of a name for your new car when you get it.

  3. Jane Pasquini says:

    I love that picture, and your story Peter! I’m on my third Prius. The newly designed Prius beginning in 2016 is very sporty, and I’ve been getting 55 mpg since I bought it last April. We fit bikes in the back (with seats down) and can travel 1000s of miles in it! Also, the Tesla looks good, but not a great range. My aunt in CT has a Prius from around 2010 which is hybrid + plug-in. She loves it! Still looks brand new, and she uses mostly electric power as she tootles around Kent, CT area.
    Let me know what you do. Good luck.

  4. John Willson says:

    I liked the photo of Cowgoose. I would be interested to know what the car was, since my first car, a 1936 Morris 8 Series II Convertible looks identical, but the resolution on the photo is not good enough for a sure-fire identification. It was a great little car, I passed it on to my younger brother when I left for Africa in 1962, we agreed on a price of 10 GBP, but he hasn’t paid me yet!

    I appreciate the third reason why you did not get an electric car, few people seem to understand that power has to come from somewhere, and coal is not a friendly source. Perhaps with the beliefs of your new President the incentives to go electric will become diminished! That’s a whole other subject!

  5. Brother John says:

    “Cowgoose” (It was our maternal grandmother who named her, in of her more inspired moments. She didn’t know why either!), was a ca. 1936 BSA, front wheel drive. Rather unique, but ideal for the conversion.
    20 6 volt car batteries under the floor. Speed regulation was by coupling in more and more batteries, in 5 stages. Very simple, ingenious, and quite jerky. Speed about 25 miles per hour, range could be as much as 25 miles on a sunny day. Driving at night was tricky, LIghts on, shorter range. Lights off, well…. One very large amperemeter on the dashboard. Exceeding 120 amps resulted in smelly smoke from up front. Speedometer not there, not important. Normal three-speed and reverse gearbox for special situations. No clutch, gear-changes at the standstill. Challenging.
    Large left pedal was for “go”, large right pedal was for “stop”. We boys loved driving it
    Sold to a handicapped driver somewhere in the Midlands, who thereby became mobile.

  6. Chips Reid says:

    Wow! Great news and a wonderful old photo of your Dad with his pipe and John and You . No wonder John took up automotive engineering and you medicine . Your father’s influence. Happy new year to you and yours!
    ( P.S. please use my gmail address from now on, thanks, Chips)

  7. Alvin Zfasd says:

    Terrific… and exquisitely written….no surprise!!! Flow of electrons frightens me! Bring back those steam engines……sooo electric!!! Oops!!

  8. geoffrey gibson says:

    Peter Read with great interest.
    I am familiar with the latest Tesla ,( we have some wealthy friends) Great car now able to recharge in 60 minutes, range now >800 kilometers.
    Best of luck with the searching especially with the chargind problems in Charleston area.
    As we are both aware. the fitting of 2 sets of golf clubs transversely accross the trunk is the most important aspect of this new car.
    Luv to both. Best to all on Dewees
    Diney and Geoffrey. f/u chest X-ray NAD

  9. Ann Procter says:

    It was, if I remember rightly, a BSA “Scout.” And I do remember very clearly that YOU, Pete, named her Cowgoose (sorry Jo), and didn’t know why then, so the mystery remains yours to solve.
    The disabled driver who had her from Dad eventually sent her back when he could no longer use her. Dad and I went to fetch her from the goods yard at Hereford railway station. Someone had removed the caps from all the batteries and they were rolling around on the floor. After fitting those back on, Cowgoose was attached to a towrope behind Dad’s current (petrol) car, and I was seated in the driving seat. As I was aged sixteen and therefore not legally a driver on the public road (but very practiced off road), Dad decided to go home a longer route via a bridge further up the river Wye, not through the town where I might be noticed. (Mum being a Justice of the Peace, i.e. a magistrate in the local court, it would have been embarassing!)
    As we passed the football ground north of the town the fans were pouring out after a match, and at that point the front bumper, to which the tow rope was attached, came off Cowgoose and followed Dad off down the road, leaving me in the middle of a jeering crowd. . . .
    The adventures of youth. . .
    Better luck with a MODERN electric car, dear Pete.

    sister Ann

  10. MarionCotton says:

    Guess I am my usual as I like more than one option so I vote for gas and electric! We have put up with this Ford this long so I think we should wAit on another option. Xo

  11. petercotto says:

    Well this is fun, thank you big sister and brother, for more detailed memories of Cowgoose. Was I driving aged 6 or 7? Cowgoose had little ground clearance because of all the batteries. I sort of remember getting stuck when trying to drive over a mound of dirt by our tennis court.

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