Home » The word

The word “electrobus” first appeared in print on the letters page of the Times on 12 April 1890 as part of a lively correspondence about words that could be used to describe the new electric forms of transport, such as trams and trains. Most of the suggestions, such as “electrocar” a word for an electric tramcar, not an automobile, and “electrotrain” never caught on.

The next sighting of the word was in a number of provincial papers on 16 April 1906. It was all part of the London Electrobus Company’s pre-launch publicity. A search of the British Newspaper Archive, which currently has scans of 22 million pages of newspapers from the British Library, turns up more than 350 articles containing the word. Almost all of these articles date from the years 1906 to 1910 and refer to the goings on at the London Electrobus Company.

In the years before the second world war the word was often used in French as a synonym for trolleybus. In 1977 Chloride Electric Vehicle Associates launched an electrobus, a battery electric bus, in Cleveland Ohio. It is now often used as a brand name for battery electric buses and is still sometimes used in Eastern Europe as a name for trolleybuses.

The word clearly has some resonance with the public. It has also been used by a 1980s French rock group, an internet radio station and an automotive repair shop. Needless to say none of these operations had any connection with the original London Electrobus Company.