Long before electric trucks became a topic of environmental and political debate, the Waitoa Dairy Factory had a fleet of electric trucks.
These trucks were manufactured in Chicago in the early part of the nineteenth century until 1941, when the USA entered World War 11. Large fleets were imported into New Zealand.
The half ton electric trucks had a top range of forty miles (64 kms) dependent on the load and road conditions, and a top speed of 14 mph (24 m/h)
This meant that the dairy farms needed to be close to the factories. Improved transport and road conditions later contributed to the change from sheep farming to dairying in the region.
The driver was positioned high over the front wheels, controlling a large steering wheel, two brake pedals on either side of the steering wheel and a lever for speed control. The reverse gear was engaged by another foot lever.
These trucks had a 3-5 HP electric motor. The bank of batteries sat in the middle of the truck halfway between the front and rear axles and produced 66 to 80 volts with a maximum of 49 amps.
The motor was locate un the differential and the drive gears were in the wheels. The batteries were charge overnight.
Despite the vehicles being very quiet, the solid rubber tyres and primitive suspension systems did not make for a luxury ride.
The cab was open on the sides although many trucks had a fabric cover to keep out the dust. None of the convenience of the tankers we see today, there was a lot of heavy lifting in this work.
The debate about powering vehicles will continue, but perhaps some things are best left in the past.