Curator’s Introduction:  Although gas was inexpensive in the 1960s, one of the engineers in the Motorola Semiconductor Application group developed an “Electric Runabout” using a three-wheeled motorcycle and germanium power transistors.  Ralph describes this project and how it ended unexpectedly on the golf course.  (Note: The complete Ralph Greenburg Oral History can be found at the Transistor Museum™ homepage).        



Dave Adley’s Electric Runabout


As a child one of my favorite books was "Tom Swift and his Electric Runabout".   During my years in Application Engineering I met a real life Tom Swift in the guise of an engineer by the name of Dave Adley. The time was the mid-sixties and Dave spent must of his working hours evaluating transistors to be put in television circuitry and solving problems for customers.  This effort did not stretch Dave’s' creative nature very much so he decided to develop an electric car as a hobby.   Dave purchased a well-used three-wheeled Isseta that was essentially a motorcycle with a passenger compartment.  One entered the small two-passenger compartment from the front via a hinged door that was also the windshield.  Behind the seat was a small storage compartment and a putt-putt engine was in the back.


Dave’s first problem was to find a small electric motor with enough power to drive the car.  He found an aircraft 28-volt generator at a military surplus store near Luke Field and wired it as a motor.  He then removed the gas engine and connected the electric motor to the drive mechanism.  Car Batteries wired in Series Parallel were stuffed into the storage area.   Dave then needed a speed control but no commercial one fit the bill so Dave improvised with, of all things, steel coat hangers.  The steel wires in the hangers had just the right amount of resistance to make a series pass regulator.  Dave bent several hangers in a zigzag shape and tapped wires along the length connected to a multi-position switch.  With the switch in the position that put all of the wire in series with the motor the car was at very slow speed and turning the switch to remove resistance would allow more voltage to be applied to the motor and the car went faster.  And believe it or not he had created an electric vehicle.




Go To Greenburg “Dave Adley’s Electric Runabout”, Page 2


A Transistor Museum™ History of Transistors Publication

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