Lada Made an Electric Car and Boy Was It Ugly

Russian automaker Lada once got in on the electric car scene in 1998, debuting a somewhat terrifying design at the Paris International Motor Show. It’s gawky, round, and surreal. And while there are incentives to buy an electric car in Russia, this isn’t exactly what we meant. For better or worse, here’s a deep dive into an ugly electric concept car we’re glad never entered production.

1998 Lada Rapan Electric Car
1998 Lada Rapan Electric Car | Konstantin Zavrazhin/Getty Images

Behold, the Lada Rapan electric car

It’s my job to remain unbiased, to see every vehicle as it is and hesitate from bashful comments… but holy smokes just look at it. Moe Szslack, the bartender from the Simpsons, is the first thing that comes to mind when I look at this. And the whole shtick is that Moe has a hideous face. This is no exception, but there has to be some design philosophy behind it, right?

Well, there’s a reason the front end was designed with a sort of “bulge” to it. While the Rapan was built to be all-electric, the engineers wanted to leave room for a gasoline engine that’d make it a hybrid instead. Thus, the lip at the front. On top of that, it was thought that early electric cars encompassed design creativity. They were new and, therefore, required a unique look to them. Though the Rapan may have gone a step too far.

Okay, we get it, the thing is ugly. But how good of an electric car is it, and can those numbers make the Rapan’s design forgivable? The short answer, probably not.

The specs and speeds of the Lada Rapan

Lada Rapan Electric Car Concept
1998 Lada Rapan Electric Car | Wikimedia Commons

While very little is known about this one-of-one electric concept car, using modern technology, I was able to scrounge some original web pages from the 90s and translated the Russian text to English. In other words, we’re transcribing the features of this car like one would transcribe the old testament, and hoping it’s accurate.

The battery 134-volt nickel-cadmium battery was paired to a 25 kW, or 33 hp electric motor. For perspective, we’ll compare this to the infamous EV1 of the same-ish era. That started with a 312-volt lead-acid battery paired to a 137 hp motor, and makes the Rapan look plain silly.

Because of the larger battery pack, the first-generation EV1 could get up to 80 miles per charge, whereas the Rapan could only get 60. Not only that, but you’d only achieve that 60-mile maximum range if you cruised at 25 miles per hour. The EV1, however, could handle highway speeds and still keep the range up, adding more miles as it went along according to this archived Car and Driver report.

But perhaps the most laughable numbers of the Rapan are its acceleration times. To get from 0-30 km/h, or 18 miles per hour, took five seconds. And getting up to 60 km/h, or 37 mph, took fifteen seconds. According to this archived site, it had a top speed of 55 mph, but for all we know, that may have taken a lifetime.

What happened to the Lada Rapan?

AVTOVAZ Museum and Design Center
AVTOVAZ Museum and Design Center | Lada

For better or worse (but really for better), the Lada Rapan was never meant to enter production. It was a simple publicity stunt, showcased at a global fair, and then tucked away at Volga’s Design Center (second car on the right in the photo above).

Did it pave the way for global electric cars? Probably not. But I had to look at this ugly electric car for longer than I would’ve liked, and now you all had to as well. You’re welcome.

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