Steve Dallas, I would hazard to guess, is the only person in Canada to have this particular two-car punch: 1917 Raush Electric; Toronto Electric A2B (prototype).
You don’t see many 90-year-plus electric vehicles of any stripe on the road these days, and the A2B is even rarer — there is only one.
Steve had the inside track on the A2B prototype, because he just happens to be the president of Toronto Electric and the person who willed the little car into existence.
Toronto Electric specializes in material handling and electric motors. But back in 1885 it was engaged in another activity.
“We had the first contract to change the gas (powered) streetlights in the City of York to electric, now we’re trying to change gas cars to electric.”
Steve decided to branch Toronto Electric off in the electric car direction, because it seemed a natural fit for the company, which operates in a hub of firms with electrical power expertise, and because, well frankly, he is crazy-like-a-fox about these zero-emission cars.
“I’m the only person in Canada at the moment, that has completed a ground-up design of an electric car,” says Steve.
Pure electric cars have all their weight in the middle of the vehicle. Steve notes that when mass is centralized like that in a unibody platform commonly used on gas-powered vehicles, that platform becomes “a stick of licorice.” In other words, not rigid enough.
“I realized we had to get back to a full frame.”
Lowdown Hot Rods of Cambridge, Ont., which specializes in building frames for hot rods and race cars, created the super-strong chromolly frame.
The dense lithium battery pack is located as low as possible, and dead centre in the vehicle, on a belly pan made of carbon fibre. The three-phase 43 kW motor and single-speed gearbox is nestled under the tiny front hood. Under the hood you’ll also see the diesel-powered heater (for both passengers and the battery pack). A full charge nets a range of about 210 kilometres. The one-piece fibreglass body was designed by Dutchman Design, of Montreal. The whole thing weighs about 1,600 lbs.
Virtually everything can be monitored and adjusted via a console-mounted touch screen. The car is basically a programmable computer on wheels. Because technology moves so fast, Steve feels electric cars will need to be so “update-able” on both the powertrain and software sides — otherwise they will become as disposable as cellphones.
Time for a ride. I call shotgun, which is fortuitous, because there are only two seats. We strap in, Steve logs in, and then demonstrates some of the information that can be monitored. Eventually this information will be available to everyone, on the car’s Facebook page.
The car is beautifully made, but on the road it is loud and rough. This is a prototype — made for testing. Also, with its super-rigid frame and lack of any sound insulation, it’s more racecar than family car, right now anyway. But it is easily the most thought-provoking vehicle I’ve been in for some time.
Before any production models get made, Steve says there will lots to discuss and hammer out with possible partners and Transport Canada. A story for another day.
Michael Goetz has been writing about cars and editing automotive publications for over 20 years. He lives in Toronto with his family and a neglected 1967 Jaguar E-type.