Tech Hunters: The Sinclair C5 Was A Truly Glorious Disaster

The Sinclair C5 was a beautiful idea executed at just about the worst possible time.

Created by the British inventor Sir Clive Sinclair, the C5 was a personal electric vehicle that was designed to finally replace the car.

Unveiled in 1985, its little three-wheeled and open top design was seen as being an evolution of the bicycle with the public instead relying on nationalised transport services like trains and busses for longer journeys.

With a 250-watt engine that produced an eye-watering 0.34hp the Sinclair C5 was marketed as being an economical vehicle with 20-miles costing just 5p.

There was however, one minor problem with the C5. It was awful.

Driving a C5 down a main road surrounded by cars took the nerves of a Nordic god while the plastic body and flimsy construction meant that if you were to hit anything the C5 would almost always come off much worse.

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Unsurprisingly it wasn’t a commercial success either. It sold just 5,000 of the 14,000 that were made and Sinclair sadly ended up losing around £7m of his own fortune on the project.

Yet despite its abject failure the C5 is thought of fondly, as a product that reached for a better world but was held back by the limitations of its time.

Building an electric car isn’t a a terrible idea, it’s a brilliant one, however it’s only now that companies like Tesla are able to offer us genuine alternatives to petrol vehicles.

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