Jeantaud - Shortlived French Electric Cars

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 1894 - 1906
Charles Jeantaud was one of the leading French electric-car manufacturers of the veteran era and, out of his desire to promote his products grew the land-speed-record contest.

Jeantaud's first successful electric car appeared in 1894, and was' described in La Nature the following January .. A neat two-seater carriage, it had a battery of accumulators weighing 450 kg mounted beneath the seat; the 4 hp motor, which could develop 1500 rpm, was in-unit with the rear axle which it drove through a double-reduction gearing.

The first stage was from the motor to a drum containing the differential unit, and was achieved by the use of chevron gearing for silence. This drove the half-shafts which were carried in bearings ahead of the axle. At the end of these shafts were pinions, which engaged in internally-toothed drums.

Charles Jeantaud omitted to use these drums for braking, preferring, like most of his contemporaries, to put his faith in shoes rubbing on the face of the solid tyres. Steering was by a somewhat spidery tiller, which apparently turned the entire front axle direct, without the intervention of gearing.

1895 Paris-Bordeaux Race

A Jeantaud four-seater brake with a surrey top took part .in the 1895 Paris-Bordeaux race, the only electric vehicle to do so. Although Jeantaud had arranged ample supplies of spare batteries en-route, the car was eliminated during the early stages of the race by axle trouble near Orleans. Jeantaud was a coachbuilder as well as a constructor of electric vehicles.

From his workshops in the late 1890s came the world's first trailer caravans, huge steam houses designed to be towed behind De Dion tractor units. With running water and flush toilets, these caravans promised comforts which were rare even in caravans 100 years later, but they proved only a passing whim of the very rich. This coach building side of the business was reflected in the wide variety of body styles which appeared on Jeantaud vehicles.

Charles Jeantaud had been a prime mover in the organisation of a trial for motor cabs held in Paris in June 1898 by the Automobile Club de France, and among his entries for this event were a two-seater landaulet, a victoria and a curious hansom cab in which the driver sat in the same place - high up, at the rear - as on a horse-drawn hansom cab. Electric vehicles were obviously unsuited to the major road-racing events of the day, but a specially streamlined Jeantaud, driven by the Comte de Chasseloup-Laubat, distinguished itself in the first speed trials held on the Acheres road in 1898, averaging 39.3 mph over the two-kilometre course and beating such speedy machines as the Bollee tricars of Loysel and Giraud and Rigals' De Dion tricycle.

The 1901 Petit Due

Soon after, Jeantaud concentrated on normal passenger vehicles. His 1901 Petit Due cost 8000 francs, and could cover 60 kilometres at a speed of 18 kph; running costs were claimed to be only 5 centimes a kilometre. In 1903 and 1904, Jeantaud dabbled in the production of petrol cars, but his electrics were rapidly being eclipsed by the achievements of Krieger, whose example he followed in 1905 by adopting front-wheel drive. It may have been falling sales, or the uncertain future of the electric vehicle, but, whatever the reason, Charles Jeantaud committed suicide in 1906 and with him died his company.

The above photo is circa 1894, and shows Charles Jeantaud posing with the first of his creations, a 4hp electric car
The above photo is circa 1894, and shows Charles Jeantaud posing with the first of his creations, a 4hp electric car.
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