The Amitron was an electric concept car built in 1967 by American Motors Corporation (AMC) and Gulton Industries of Metuchen, New Jersey. It was a snub-snouted three-passenger urban area vehicle or city car with an overall length of only 85 inches.
Roy D. Chapin, Jr., Chairman and CEO of AMC, stated that the Amitron ‘could eliminate many problems that up to this point have made electric-type cars impractical.’
A piggyback system of two 24 lb nickel-cadmium batteries and two 75 lb lithium batteries developed by Gulton were designed to power the car for 150-miles at 50 mph. This was a big step beyond contemporary lead-acid electric vehicles. The car’s lithium batteries were designed for sustained speeds. During acceleration, the nickel-cadmium batteries would cut in briefly to boost the Amitron from a standstill to 50 mph in 20 seconds. An Energy Regeneration Brake system would automatically switch the drive motors to generators as the car slowed so that the batteries could recharge; thus increasing the range of the car. This was first use of regenerative braking technology in the U.S.
The first road tests of the power plant were in 1968 using a Rambler American sedan. At the time, American Motors Vice President of Design, Richard A. Teague, was working on a car called ‘the Voltswagon.’ However, the programs to develop clean-transportation in the U.S. were ended, and the Amitron did not go beyond the prototype stage. Its development was significant for the emphasis on various methods to improve performance and range. It had a solid-state electronic CPU to efficiently use power and on-the-road regeneration. Among its unique automobile design features were passenger seats that had air filled cushions, rather than conventional polyurethane (foam rubber). The Amitron was designed to minimize power loss by keeping down rolling resistance, wind drag resistance, and vehicle weight.