Since the Royal Family have dominated the news for obvious reasons recently, we thought we’d post something of topical interest for our blog readers.

In a story published on the ITV website back in 2018, the-then Prince Charles hit the headlines for apparently taking delivery of the Royal Family’s first electric car.

But, this isn’t strictly accurate. The article describes how the eco-conscious prince (now King of course) already possessed a car that ran on fuel made from old wine but had also taken delivery of a fully electric vehicle; the Jaguar I-Pace.

Although the article goes on to describe some of the features the Jaguar I-Pace has, it doesn’t mention that a member of the Royal Family had first acquired an EV (electric vehicle); a LONG time previously

Jaguar I Pace electric car

The Jaguar I Pace – Photo courtesy of Alexander Migl, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Royal Family’s REAL first electric car

If the lead image at the top of the page of a 1901 Columbia has left you scratching your head in disbelief, you’re probably not alone. It’s fair to say that most of us today simply assume that electric cars are a relatively modern phenomenon, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Electric vehicles, including electrified public transport trams were actually quite a big thing years ago. However, since petroleum began to get cheaper and cheaper as mass extraction and production methods were refined, the internal combustion engine became the dominant method of propulsion and electric vehicles sank into oblivion.

The Columbia

The Royal electric car in question was owned by Queen Alexandra, who was Queen Victoria’s daughter-in-law and wife of King Edward VII who reigned from 1901 to 1910. It had an impressive top speed of 20mph (which was pretty fast back then) and could run for 40 miles on a single charge – impressive stuff!  Alexandra obviously thought so too. – A quote printed in The Autocar publication in 1901 reads:

Her Majesty is delighted with the ease and simplicity of control and manipulation.

It wasn’t a one-off either; the very next year in 1902 saw The Prince of Wales (the future King George V) buy another electric car.

Although manufactured in the USA, Columbia cars were marketed in Britain by the London-based City & Suburban Electric Carriage Co. It has a “victoriette’ style of body which was retro-fitted in the UK. If you want to see it, it’s on display at The National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, Hampshire.

1901 Columbia - The first royal electric car

Queen Alexandra’s 1901 electric Columbia bought for use on the Sandringham estate. Photo courtesy of Karen Roe from Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, UK, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This