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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 10 March 2018
20 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 10 MARCH 2018 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Staff pose for the camera as first model of Enfield-Neorion E8000 rolls off the production line in Hermoupolis, Syros. A prototype of the electric car made in Greece being tested in Hermoupolis, Syros. THANOS PAPPAS On the right, Constantinos Adraktas, chairman and managing technical director of Enfield, and on his left, John Goulandris, the owner of Enfield-Neorion. It is not widely known that back in 1973, an electric car was manufactured on the Greek island of Syros by the company Enfield-Neorion, owned at the time by the famous shipowner John Goulandris. Enfield Automotive was a small British firm based on the Isle of Wight. During the late 60s, the company was bought by the Greek millionaire Goulandris. The energy crisis of the 70s led the British Electricity Council to announce a contest for the design of an electric urban vehicle. Among the proposals from Ford, Leyland, and Enfield, the latter managed to surpass all the tests and eventually won the contract for an initial production of 100 vehicles. That winning design was the Enfield 8000 Electric City Car (E8000). The E8000 had an aluminium body based on a tubular steel chassis with a total weight of 975 kg including the batteries. Its aerodynamic form was truly ahead of its time, with a very low wind resistance of 0.28 cd (automobile drag coefficiency) – a number that is still impressive even by today's standards. Power came from a 6 kW electric motor which allowed a top speed of around 75 km/h. The car was destined for urban use with a range of 80 km, depending on the driving conditions. There was interest from around the world to produce the vehicle, including the US, one of the strong players in the auto manufacturing market. It is said that former US president Ronald Reagan, who was the Governor of California at the time, had three E8000 prototypes transported to Los Angeles and San Francisco for demonstration purposes, to support his Clean Air Act. Yet Goulandris made the call to move the factory to Syros, incorporating Enfield Automotive with Neorion Shipyards. This decision led to Constantinos Adraktas' resignation, as he believed that the project was destined to fail in the Greek island due to manufacturing costs. Greek workers with a background of repairing small boats or working in the shipyard, had no previous experience building cars. However, after lots of hard work, and with the help of British designer John Ackroyd, who communicated with non-English speaking staff using hand sketches, the first car rolled off the production line. The aluminium body was shaped on wooden moulds using hammers but most of the spare parts needed for the production spent days stuck in Greek customs office, adding costs and delaying the manufacturing process. There were also plans for other versions of the vehicle with more simple flat panel bodywork that would make it cheaper to manufacture. Unfortunately, the car didn't get registration approval from the Greek military junta which ruled at the time, and was never sold in Greece, even though Goulandris appointed one of the top junta members as the managing director of his company. Tragically, the official reason given as to why the car wouldn't be approved was the lack of an internal combustion engine which led to tax categorisation issues. Prototypes were illegally driven on the road, having no other option as officials wouldn't even approve licence plates for testing purposes.
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