5 Soviet Tesla: Electric Lada from 30 Years Ago That Was Mass Produced

Soviet Tesla: Electric Lada from 30 Years Ago That Was Mass Produced

Posted on September 4, 2018 by tim

People admire the rise of electric cars these days. The Tesla Model S is said to be revolutionary and to have changed the way electric cars are marketed and accepted in the world. Every brand is trying to come up with its own electric car. However, LADA had one back in 1980s.


The Soviet state commission approved LADA’s attempt to create an electric vehicle and recommended the car industry to start produce electric cars en masse. So in the years 1980-81, the first serial Soviet electric car was produced – over fifty cars were made in that first production run.

The model was designated “VAZ (LADA) 2801″. The aluminium body hosted Nickel Zinc batteries. To service the batteries, there was a special hatch in the place of the rear door (see the photo above, there is a hatch where “ELECTRO” is written).

Some cars stayed in LADA’s native city Togliatti, they were used by post offices, and intra factory services (like delivery of lunches). The blue electric LADA’s (like the one above without any markings saying it is electric) were used in Moscow, but most of the early electric cars were sent to Ukraine. They were working in different spheres of communistic business like TV repairs and other small service centers. Some were in Crimea, and some were in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev.

This is a rare photo of an electric LADA car from the advertisement catalogue.

The Ni-Zn batteries were a heavy load – over 380kg of weight. The engine had 25 kWt (35 hp) which could get the car up to 90 km/h. By the way, the range limit was pretty good even by modern standards – it could go for more than 130 km from charge to charge.

However, there was little to no infrastructure of charging stations at that time in the USSR. Also, the initial cost of production turned out to be greater that the Soviet officials thought it would be, so they started slowing down the project of mass adoption of electric vehicles in the USSR.

The LADA factory was given an order to continue research in terms of improving electric cars.

Weirdly enough, some experimental electric LADA’s have survived until today. Most of them though have had their electric engines replaced with “normal” gas guzzlers.

Here are couple of the pre-Teslas that have survived (mainly in Ukraine where they were sent for testing in real life conditions):


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5 Responses to “Soviet Tesla: Electric Lada from 30 Years Ago That Was Mass Produced”

  1. javox14 says:

    wow, thats impressive

  2. Jewels Vern says:

    Yes, the problem has always been that the batteries weighed more than the engine they replaced. Besides that, there are not enough special metals in the world to make batteries for all the cars in one nation – and we have about 240 more nations that want cars.

    • Asmodeus says:

      Good point. Electric engines are not a sure bet after all. I understand that since the invention of combustion engines, the cleanest and most workable option has always been Hydrogen fueled motors. These are supposed to be as safe (or as unsafe) as the gasoline engines. We’ll see in the future.

    • Herodotus says:

      That’s a simple but very important problem. I don’t see electric cars replacing gasoline engines in the long run.

      Thanks again, Jewels.

  3. Yev777 says:

    50 units built are hardly “mass produced” by VAZ standards back then, still impressive though.

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