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British Industrial History

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London Electrobus 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.
c. 1906. Electrobus prospectus (front page). (Image Credit: 'Guildhall Library, City of London').
1908. Electrobus in traffic outside the Bank of England from a 1908 postcard.

London Electrobus Co of 1 Earl Street, Westminster.

1906 The company was registered in April. [1]

1906 April. Articles.[2][3]

1908 Reference to Electrobus Company, Limited, of Whitehall House, Charing Cross.[4]

These are the London addresses that the company registered at Companies House:[5]

  • 10 April 1906 - 17 Cockspur Street, SW
  • 24 July 1907 - 1 Earl Street, Westminster, SW
  • 15 April 1908 - Whitehall House, 29-30 Charing Cross, SW
  • 19 July 1909 - 45 Horseferry Road, Westminster, SW

The London Electrobus Company compiled by Mick Hamer November 2017.

Offices: 1 Earl Street, Westminster, SW Garage: 45 Horseferry Road, Westminster, SW

The London Electrobus Company was registered at Companies House on 11 April 1906.[6] On 18 April the company demonstrated a prototype electrobus to the press at the Hotel Cecil in the Strand.[7]

The company launched its prospectus on 23 April, seeking to raise £305,000 from investors to put 300 electrobuses on the streets of London within 12 months. The prospectus claimed that the company had a patent that gave it a monopoly on this type of electric bus.[8]

The claim to have a monopoly was false and the patent, which was for a motor vehicle transmission, did not give any monopoly on electric buses.[9] A series of court actions forced the company to refund more than 1,000 investors.[10] Newspaper reports pointed to the well-known motorist Dr Edward Ernest Lehwess, of the Motor Car Emporium, as the moving spirit behind the enterprise.[11]

View patent on www.worldwide.espacenet.com

Despite this setback the company began a service of electrobuses between Victoria Station and Liverpool Street on 15 July 1907.[12] The company’s garage and offices were on the corner of Earl Street (now named Marsham Street) and Horseferry Road, close by Victoria Station.[13]

The electrobuses initially used batteries supplied by the Gould Storage Battery Corporation, of Depew, New York State.[14] The batteries gave the bus a limited range of up to 40 miles, enough for four return journeys between Victoria and Liverpool Street. 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]

In April 1908 the company made a fresh attempt to raise money through a share flotation, which was partially successful. By the end of the year the number of electrobuses on the streets of London had increased to 20 and the company started operating a second route.[17]

The service went into decline during 1909 and in July shareholders were asked to support a reconstruction to bring the electrobuses under “new and efficient management”.[18] On 3 January 1910 the Reorganisation and Control Syndicate took over all the electrobus assets. Despite raising a significant sum of money for the reconstruction the Reorganisation and Control Syndicate never ran a single bus.[19] Shortly after this the rump of the London Electrobus Company went into liquidation.[20]

The magazine Electrical Engineering urged investors to demand a full explanation of “Dr Lehwess’s peculiar activities” and the way the company had been run.[21]

The Electrobus compiled by Mick Hamer

The electrobus was the first practical battery-electric bus.

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.[22]

All the later electrobuses were assembled by the Electric Van Wagon and Omnibus Co.[23] 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.[24] After the morning shift the electrobus went to the garage and swapped its exhausted batteries for fresh ones. The changeover took just three minutes.[25]

By the end of 1907 the Gould batteries were being phased out and replaced with batteries made by the Tudor Accumulator Company.[26]

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”. [27]

The electrobus was the first double-deck bus to test a bus with a roof over the top deck,[28] 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. [29]

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. [30]

The last electrobus stopped running in April 1917. Thomas Tilling, which had taken over the Brighton, Hove and Preston United Co in 1916 [31] said that a lack of spares had forced them to stop running electrobuses.[32]



See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  2. Automotor Journal 1906/04/28
  3. Automotor Journal 1906/05/05
  4. The Engineer 1908/12/04
  5. The National Archives, BT 31/17731/88381
  6. The National Archives, BT 31/17731/88381.
  7. The Star, 18 April 1906, p. 3; the Daily Chronicle 19 April, p. 5 and the Morning Post, 19 April p. 2.
  8. London Electrobus Company prospectus. The prospectus is in several archives, including the National Archive, the London Guildhall Library and Les Archives Nationales du Monde de Travail.
  9. Patent 3653 of 1902 is available on the European Patent Office website
  10. Financial Times, 29 June 1906, p. 4.
  11. Financial Times, 4 May 1906, p. 5.
  12. Daily News, 17 July 1907, p. 9.
  13. The garage was demolished in the 1930s. The site is now the headquarters of the Department for Transport. Mick Hamer, A Most Deliberate Swindle, RedDoor, 2017, pp. 240-41.
  14. Financial News, 20 May, 1909, p 7; 21 May, p. 6.
  15. Automotor Journal, 28 May 1908, p. 411.
  16. Electrical Review, 20 December 1907, p. 999.
  17. “Our Fortnightly Census”, Commercial Motor, 31 December 1908, p. 336.
  18. Financial Times, 17 July 1909, p. 5.
  19. Mick Hamer, A Most Deliberate Swindle, RedDoor, 2017, p. 170.
  20. The National Archives, BT 31/17731/88381.
  21. Electrical Engineering, 20 January 1910, p. 38.
  22. Motor Traction, 25 April 1906, pp. 363-64; Commercial Motor, 26 April 1906, p. 162.
  23. Motor Traction, 16 March 1907, p. 340.
  24. Automotor Journal, 28 May 1908, p. 411.
  25. Electrical Review, 20 December 1907, p. 999.
  26. Electrical Review, 20 December 1907, p. 999 and Tudor Accumulator Co]
  27. The Engineer 1908/11/20 pp 550-52
  28. The Engineer 1908/12/04
  29. The Electrician, 25 June 1909, p. 421.
  30. Mick Hamer, A Most Deliberate Swindle, RedDoor, 2017, p. 183.
  31. http://history.buses.co.uk/history/cohistory/welcome.htm.
  32. Mick Hamer, A Most Deliberate Swindle, RedDoor, 2017, p. 197.