It doesn’t come as news to locals that here in Tairāwhiti Gisborne we hold some top-notch ‘firsts’ to our name. Most obvious, of course, is our standing as the land of the first light. We’ve also got NZ’s first energy hub, Electric Village (that’s us!), and – big news here, folks – we were also the first town in the Southern Hemisphere to operate battery-powered electric trams. Pretty cool, huh!
So, where, and when, did our connection with electric vehicles all begin?
Well, most of the credit goes to a man by the name of William Douglas Lysnar, who was Gisborne’s Mayor back in 1910. You might say he was a bit of a visionary for Gisborne, successfully lobbying for innovative and attractive upgrades for the town, which included the introduction of electric power, improvements to streets, and a brand new tram system.
During 1910, William Lysnar took a trip to London in order to raise funds for Gisborne’s improvements and upgrades. On his way back, he travelled via America, where he met the inventor of the world’s first commercial electric light bulb, Thomas Edison (yes, really!).
As it happens, this meeting was a game changer for Lysnar, because Edison was also passionate about electric vehicles and battery storage - in fact, he built a number of prototype cars showcasing battery technology. The picture above shows William Lysnar and Thomas Edison seated in a Bailey Electric Automobile, which used Edison’s electric battery.
The trip, and especially this meeting, proved an inspiring one for Lysnar, who brought a Brougham electric car back to Gisborne as a present for his wife. But it didn’t end there! On Edison’s advice, Lysnar also imported electric trams to NZ, and in 1913, Gisborne became the first town in the Southern Hemisphere to operate battery-driven trams.
It seems Mr Lysnar understood the possible benefits of electric vehicles long before the rest of New Zealand – and we think that’s pretty darn cool. Electric energy, and electric vehicles, in particular, are a part of our history here in Tairāwhiti Gisborne, and, here at Electric Village, it’s one of the many reasons that we’re inspired to continue the chat about future energies and technology. There is a better way – and William Lysnar might just have found it for us!