Page 7 - ElectriCar Magazine
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In the early part of the Twentieth Century, innovators began toying with the concept of a battery-powered vehicle and created some of the first small-scale electric cars. A British inventor developed the first crude electric carriage; it wasn’t until the second half of the 19th century that inventors built the first practical electric car.
In the U.S. the first successful electric car made its debut around 1890. The six-passenger vehicle capable of a top speed of 14 miles per hour was little more than an electrified wagon, but it helped spark interest in electric vehicles.
Over the next few years, electric vehicles from different automakers began popping up. New York City even had a fleet of more than 60 electric taxis. By 1900, electric cars were at their heyday, accounting for around a third of all vehicles on the road. During the next 10 years, they continued to show strong sales.
At the turn of the 20th century, the horse was still the primary mode of transportation. But as Americans became more prosperous they turned to the newly invented motor vehicle to get around which were available in steam, gasoline or electric versions.
As electric vehicles came onto the market, so did a new type of vehicle, the gasoline-powered car, thanks to improvements to the internal combustion engine in the 1800s. While gasoline cars had promise, they weren’t without their faults. They required a lot of manual effort to drive, changing gears was no easy task and they needed to be started with a hand crank,
making them difficult for some to operate. They were also noisy, and their exhaust was unpleasant.
Electric cars didn’t have any of the issues associated
with steam or gasoline. They were quiet, easy to drive and didn’t emit a smelly pollutant like the other cars of the time. Electric cars quickly became popular with urban residents, especially women. They were perfect for short trips around the city, and poor road conditions outside cities meant few cars of any type could venture farther. As more people gained access to electricity in the 1910s, it became easier to charge electric cars, adding to their popularity with all walks of
life, including some of the best-known and prominent makers of gasoline cars.
Many innovators at the time took note of the electric vehicle’s high demand, exploring ways to improve the technology. For example, Ferdinand Porsche, founder of the sports car company by the same name, developed an electric car called the P1 in 1898. Around the same time, he created the world’s first hybrid electric car, a vehicle that was powered by electricity and a gas engine. Thomas Edison, one
of the world’s most prolific inventors, thought electric vehicles were the superior technology and worked to build a better electric vehicle battery. Even Henry Ford, who
was friends with Edison, partnered with Edison to explore options for a low-cost electric car in 1914.
Yet, it was Henry Ford’s mass-produced Model T that
dealt a blow to the electric
car. The Model T, which was introduced in 1908, made gasoline-powered cars widely available and affordable. By
1912, the gasoline car cost only $650, while an electric roadster Emergence of Electric Auto continued on page 87
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