In the late 1970s, the US Department of Energy had the ambitious plan of jumpstarting the electric car ecosystem by financing different electric car companies. This grand idea fizzled out quickly because the technology just was not where it was supposed to be. Electric car technology decades ago consisted of throwing some car batteries in the back of a hatchback and calling it “science.” It was decades before Tesla and the Nissan Leaf were household names and electric car choices were limited to some pretty dismal options.
This government program is where this week’s car comes in. Somewhere around the early 1980s, the electric vehicle company Jet Industries had the genius idea of electrifying Dodge’s Omni 024 coupe. The o24 already looked like a child’s drawing of a sporty hatchback, but Jet decided to make it “better” by sticking an electric motor in it and seeing what happened. The result is this Omni-based Jet Electrica 007 I found parked on the streets of Baltimore City. This Autoweek article from 2000 is one of the few resources I can find on this car.
When my friend texted me a picture of a forlorn hatchback, I thought it was someone’s valiant attempt at making a James Bond economy car. After a little more research, I felt like I had to go and find this car. Among the sea of normal city cars, a decades old angular hatchback sticks out quite a bit. My friend and I found it fairly quickly nestled away in the historic Bolton Hill area of Baltimore City.
This forgotten attempt at revolutionizing the world with electric cars sits on three intact wheels and a comically small spare tire. The Electrica 007 is emblazoned with some extremely late ‘70s graphics down the side and huge stickers on the front fenders describing the vehicle’s electric status. Baltimore photographer Jacob Morel has also captured the sad hatch before and it’s a somewhat well known local oddity among city car-spotters.
In the 1980s, the Electrica 007 was an oddball car and it’s even more strange today. I have no idea how it’s survived this long because even a regular Dodge Omni turned to dust 15 minutes after leaving the factory. In the days of the Tesla Model S, BMW i8 and other high-tech hybrid and electric masterpieces of engineering, it’s interesting to look back at electric cars that didn’t quite make the cut from years ago. We’ve come quite a long way. Will someone buy this curiosity and turn it into a Tesla-powered sleeper? Probably not but I can dream.