Happy owners of a fully restored 1904 Woods Electric Road Wagon (originally electric)1904 Woods Road Wagon, original production electric carThe Woods Road Wagon is a production electric car manufactured in 1904. SHIFT Electric Vehicles was contracted to develop and install a Lithium replacement battery system. As ambassadors for early electric vehicle awareness, owners Larry and Scheryl are sharing this vehicle as living history and a mobile museum. Simultaneous to the new battery system design, they were busy managing other restoration challenges such as motor bearings & field rewinding, wheel rubber, lights and more.

While some restoration purists might disapprove of the modern battery pack, We and the owners have great respect for the originality of the vehicle. The lithium battery pack design will not result in changes that would prevent an original, or replicated stock battery pack from being installed later. The lithium battery pack accurately duplicates the original two sub-pack voltages, while offering significantly more safety and range-enhancing capacity.


During the build, little was known about the original battery. Some documentation referenced the battery pack as weighing approximately 450 lbs, and suggested an original max range of about 25 miles. For reference, a 2015 Nissan Leaf has a 24kWhr lithium-ion pack that weighs about 600 lbs and claims 70 miles range for that vehicle.

Road Wagon electric speed controller (switches)

Original Lead Acid battery for 1904 Woods Road Wagon

The original 4 speed electric motor-controller (a mechanical switch) is quite efficient. It causes four forward speed configurations to the 2 pole series-wound motor, by putting the two battery packs and the two motor field windings into parallel and series. It accelerates and drives much more smoothly than I expected. The off position (for the speed control lever) simultaneously pulls a band (parking) brake on the motor shaft, and puts the 2 packs into series for the original off-board charging power source. In addition to 4 forward speeds, it has electric reverse, where all 4 speeds are also available.

Soon after the new battery pack is installed, the owners have plans to retrace an early cross country tour. In 1900, a Seattle businessman named Ralph S. Hopkins drove his electric Woods Road Wagon from Chicago to San Francisco. It took him 5 months with some help from the railroad. Super-chargers were obviously not scattered across North America at that time. During this project, the owners of this car wrote in an e-mail:

1904 Wood Road Wagon Lithium battery pack with 6kW charging system

"Once I discovered the limited range of this vehicle, I became convinced that the railroad had a much larger role in the original trip. The dearth of charging opportunities and roads in the wide open West at that time would have made an unaided trip too challenging. I think the significance of his effort was in showcasing the electric car to an uninitiated West, and once he headed North from San Francisco, he was showcasing the car to people who had never seen an automobile of any kind. It was the second to be seen in Portland and the first in the state of Washington. His trip claims aside, the fact that he was the first motorized vehicle in Washington makes it worthy of display in the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma.  I'm getting anxious to see his car and am developing quite a list of details to check out."

Brushed two pole series wound motor

Larry and Scheryl's passion is to educate interested people. Many folks do not realize that Electric vehicles began to substitute horses in the early 1800's. They held the fastest automobile land speed record until the year 1900, and the primary competition was steam power until the internal combustion engine was developed. This article is intended to educate as is our customers vision. Not to argue for or against an energy source, or the effects of those choices. 

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New circuit for Lithium powered 1904 88V Woods Road Wagon 

Originsl wiring diagram















1904 Road Wagon