Peugeot traces its EV history to 1941

As French automaker rolls out new electric SUV, it remembers its first EV

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Peugeot's first electric vehicle was the VLV, created during the German invasion of France during World War II | Peugeot photos

As part of the rollout of its e-2008 all-electric sport utility vehicle, Peugeot reminds that it has nearly 80 years of experience with electric vehicles.

Peugeot’s first EV wasn’t planned but was the result of what the French automaker terms “simply ingenuity.”

In 1941, faced with the German occupation of France and fuel shortages as Europe went to war, Peugeot developed “a unique alternative for the time.

That alternative was the VLV, short for Véhicule Léger de Ville, or “Light City Vehicle.” The VLV was a small cabriolet with two offset seats and an electric drivetrain.

“This economical vehicle, designed for urban use, was intended to meet the transport needs of those whose vehicle had been requisitioned or could not be driven due to a lack of fuel, which was often rationed and very expensive,” Peugeot said in its retrospective news release. 

“Designed as a ‘cyclecar,’ with a wide track at the front and a narrow track at the rear, the VLV ran on electricity using batteries stored in the front, and an electric motor without a differential that powered the rear wheels. 

“Its range was 43 to 50 miles at speeds up to 21 mph.”

Between 1941 and 1943, Peugeot produced 377 of these vehicles at the La Garenne factory near Paris. They were used primarily for postal delivery and by doctors doing house calls.

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Peugeot’s 2008 is available with gasoline or diesel engines, or as the e-2008 with an electric powertrain

It wasn’t until 1989 that Peugeot would do another EV, the J5 electric-powered commercial van. In 1993, it began development on the 106 Electric, a passenger car that went into production two years later.

For more information, visit the Peugeot website.

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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