The Sinclair C5, a battery-operated electric tricycle invented by computing tycoon Sir Clive Sinclair, was launched on this day in 1985.

Advertised as “a new power in personal transport”, the C5 was expected to revolutionise the electric vehicle market by the man who had created the ZX Spectrum, the best-selling British computer of all time.

[Read more: April 23, 1982: ZX Spectrum brings affordable computing into Britain's homes]

It was driven in the sitting position, with legs outstretched, and controlled by a handlebar located between the knees. Designed for short journeys around town, its electric motor could manage a top speed of 15mph.

Sinclair had envisaged the C5, which retailed at £399, as appealing to both drivers and cyclists, but it soon became apparent that its shortcomings pleased neither group.

Clive Sinclair drives a C5

Standing only 2ft 6ins high, the vehicles suffered from poor visibility on the road, and their 12-volt battery offered a range of just 20 miles. Drivers were also uncovered and open to the elements.

It also raised a number of safety concerns: the body was lightweight and offered little protection in a crash, and drivers were not required to have a licence or even wear a helmet. The British Safety Council issued a highly critical report on the vehicle.

Sinclair’s expectations were soon shown to be wildly over-optimistic. By the end of July, only 5,000 had been sold. Production was halted the following month, with most of the other 7,000 of the tricycles built remaining unsold.