Prospects for the Electric Vehicle:
A Historical Perspective


Copyright © 1980 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Reprinted, with permission, from IEEE Transactions on Education, vol. E-23, No 3, August 1980.

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Abstract—The commercial failure of the electric vehicle in the first decades of this century was due to a number of factors, but one which has not yet been remarked upon by historians was the lack of interest of most electric utility companies in the vehicle charging business. Electric vehicles needed careful maintenance to preserve their expensive and not very durable batteries, and in those businesses which were too small to use more than a few vehicles and which could not afford to operate charging and maintenance facilities, this was a serious drawback to their ability to use electric vehicles. In a few big cities in the period 1905-1920, a few utility companies aided the electric vehicle industry by setting up garages, giving special charging rates, making available technical services, etc., but this was an uncommon phenomenon. Therefore, the use of commercial electric vehicles was usually restricted to those few large businesses which operated sizable fleets and their own garages. It is suggested that such lack of utility company support of the early electric vehicle may point up a lesson for the future acceptance of the electric vehicle in our own time.

I. Introduction

Gasoline prices are rising rapidly. Nevertheless, more and more internal combustion vehicles are being sold and there are fears of a gas shortage. Experts predict that prices will continue to rise since proven reserves of petroleum are limited. Electric vehicle enthusiasts urge more emphasis on electric cars and trucks, since these will become more competitive as gas prices rise. They also point out the nonpolluting aspects of their technology. Business and government are being urged to push the electric vehicle, while conferences and associations are formed to coordinate this work. The electric enthusiasts are impatient that more is not being done to support electric vehicles, but they are convinced that such support must grow in the future. The year is 1912.

The fact that it could also be 1980 is my primary reason for writing this paper. History does not repeat itself, and there are plenty of dissimilarities between our present situation and that of 1912. Nevertheless, there are also enough parallels to make an analysis of the electric vehicle's early history worthwhile for our own time as well as for historical interest.

II. The Case For The Electric Road Vehicle

When the automobile industry began to emerge about 1895, many inventors assumed that electric drive would be adopted for most vehicles. From a purely technical standpoint, the state of the art of the electric's components was well advanced at this time. The dc motor, for example, had gone through a decade of improvements with the spectacular growth of the trolley industry. Indeed, most of the circuitry of the electrics was a scaled-down version of that of the streetcars; e.g., the motor controller, to regulate speed [1].

The lead-acid storage batteries which provided the power had undergone fifteen years of commercial development. Unfortunately, however, the batteries were both the most expensive and the most recalcitrant technology on the car. Being electrochemical, they lacked the inherent durability of electromechanical devices. Nevertheless, fifteen years of manufacturing experience had shown that they could be improved, and for about ten years previously, inventors in the U.S. and Europe had struggled to produce small, transportable batteries for use on self-propelled streetcars. Although the battery streetcar never proved commercially successful, some success was achieved in the technology of transport batteries, and this technology was transferred to the electric car [2].

The car batteries of 1895-1900 were very unreliable, but in the first decade of the new century, a number of lead-acid batteries with good durability were developed. Moreover, by 1909, Thomas Edison had perfected his highly durable nickel- iron battery, specifically for electric vehicles. Subsequent years saw more improvements in storage batteries. Between 1910 and 1925, the storage capacity of batteries increased 35 percent, their life 300 percent, and the mileage range of electric trucks 230 percent, while maintenance costs dropped 63 percent [3].

Another factor which encouraged electric vehicle inventors was the spectacular success of the electric streetcar in replacing the horsecar. Inventors saw this as being a harbinger of the equal success of electricity over horsepower in private transport. These inventors realized, to be sure, that there was a major difference between the technology of the trolley and the electric vehicle; namely, that the trolley received power conducted directly from the generating station through overhead wires, whereas the electric vehicle had to store power in batteries. This caused several major inefficiencies of conversion, and most of the electric vehicle developers were aware that this was one major reason for the high cost of the battery streetcars [2, ch. III].

This problem, however, was not a major obstacle in the thinking of electric vehicle promoters. During the final years of the battery streetcar experiments in the mid-1890's, most of these cars worked well, but they did not survive economically because the overhead-conductor trolley car was much cheaper to run [4]. But one of the chief reasons for the poor economy of the battery streetcars was the heavy strain placed on the batteries by continual stop-and-go operation, particularly in rush hours. Batteries, like horses, degenerate quickly and operate inefficiently when strained. Electric vehicles, however, were smaller than streetcars, usually carried a regular load, and did not operate on a stop-and-go basis; thus, they were expected to perform more satisfactorily than the streetcars. This is in fact what happened. Moreover, the economical and strain-resistant trolley car had no analog in the field of private vehicles, and, therefore, the electric vehicle faced no competition from other forms of electric transport. Most promoters of the electric were realists who faced the challenge of the gasoline car candidly. Few thought that the electric would totally replace the gasoline vehicle. They realized that for long distance transport, or where speed was essential, the electric was inherently unsuitable, and that this field must go to internal combustion. This early recognition came from the sobering record of commercial storage battery innovation between 1880 and 1895, in which, try as they would, inventors were forced to the conclusion that storage batteries inherently could not be made with a high energy-to-weight ratio.*

The electric's promoters, therefore, saw the future of the automobile industry as a mix of electrics and internal combustion vehicles, each type being made for a different market, and with a minimal overlap producing small competition. The electric was seen as ideal for transport inside cities, where its safety, quiet and clean operation, resistance against breakdown and ease of use gave it advantages over the gasoline car. In 1913, for example, one writer observed [5]:

    No up-to-date and well-informed business man, be he the most rabid electric partisan, will make the mistake of opposing the introduction of the gasoline truck. For every one electric wagon now being made, there are nine gasoline trucks being put into service. And, yet, if the electric people were to have what is due them, they should have forty percent of the motor wagon business in the large centers of population. They will gain nothing, however, by decrying the non- electric power wagons.... Properly adapted for the work they have to perform, they are all better than the horse in point of economy and serviceability."

A common idea at the time was that automobile owners should buy both an electric and a gasoline car and use them for different purposes [7]. Most published economic assessments of the electric compared it only with the horses; few made comparisons with gasoline [8].

If the electric's promoters thought they could convince motorists of the desirability of their vehicles, they were also sanguine about getting help from the electric utility companies. They believed that the utilities would look favorably on the electric, since the use of large numbers of these vehicles by the public would improve a power company's load factor. Load factor (the ratio of peak-to-average load demand on a station) is a measure of station efficiency. During the early years of electric power distribution, load factors usually were very small. This was because of the almost pure lighting load and the fact that most stations were small. By the 1890's, however, load factors were being improved by such changes as the increase in industrial and trolley motor loads, the creation of larger systems with different patterns of consumption (i.e., the increase of "diversity factor"), and the development of the domestic appliance industry. For obvious reasons, utilities were most interested in encouraging the sale of resistance-load appliances-toasters, heaters, and electric irons.

The electric vehicle seemed ideal for improving load factor. Most of the charging would be done from late night to early morning, when electric demand was lowest. Therefore, the full economic importance of the electric to the power company was more than merely its total consumption of watt-hours relative to other forms of consumption. This was because each additional fleet of electric vehicles would consume significant amounts of current and yet the utility company would not be required to purchase new generating capacity, whereas each new group of homes using electric light would require the company to install new dynamos, engines, boilers, etc. As one writer observed in a 1913 article [9]:

"The new idea of central-station commercial management has at its very foundation the filling in of low parts in the load curve rather than raising it generally on a hit or miss scheme. There have been several proposed plans for taking care of this low point in the station load in a way that would bring forth profit, but no class of business has ever offered so much of an opportunity to the central station, large or small, as does the maintenance of the electric vehicle today...It becomes automatically, by nature of its peculiarities, by far the most desirable load that the average central station could possibly connect up..."

The electric's proponents frequently stressed the amount of current that their batteries would consume relative to the much smaller consumption of domestic appliances; they stressed these comparisons because of the emphasis utility companies placed on increasing their domestic load. For example, "...a 1000 pound delivery wagon equals thirteen residences in point of revenue"; or, "...the average monthly income from (apartments is) $1.84 and from houses $3.08, while the average monthly income from electric pleasure vehicles is $6.87 and for electric trucks between $12.00 and $20.00, depending on the size"; or, "...each machine (of average size) is equivalent to 25 houses in current consuming capacity" [10].

A favorite reference appliance was the electric iron, since the utilities promoted its use more than any other early appliance [11]. One writer observed that: "The flat-iron customer is eagerly sought, yet this user consumes in the neighborhood of only 10 kWh per month...", whereas a typical half ton delivery van driving 910 mi./month would consume 300 kWh. He then provided a table of the electrical consumption of various sizes of commercial electric vehicles in units of flat-irons-per-truck [12].* Beginning around 1900, and increasing rapidly through this century, electric utilities vigorously pushed the sale of domestic and commercial appliances to improve load factor as well as to increase overall revenue. It is not surprising, therefore, that electric vehicle promoters thought that the utilities would push their technology also. There is yet another reason why the electric vehicle's future began to look rosier during the first two decades of the century. Paradoxically, this was because many more gasoline vehicles were being sold then electrics. At the turn of the century, U.S. production of electric and gasoline vehicles was about equal, but already by 1909, the production of electrics was only 4.4 percent of their rival [13]. Even this small percentage tumbled with the invention of the electric self-starter for gasoline vehicles in 1912 and its massive commercial application starting in 1914; the self-starter removed the attractiveness of the electric for women, the old, and those who simply feared the danger of hand cranking. The rapid growth of gasoline vehicle production, however, was not matched by an equally rapid growth of gasoline production. As a result, gasoline prices rose from 1900 on, with a really strong acceleration starting in 1910 [14]. Electric rates, on the other hand, declined during this period, particularly during the 1910-1920 period [15].* Therefore, beginning around 1910-1911, arguments appeared favorable to the electric vehicle on purely economic grounds. This was a change from the earlier period, when because of the higher initial cost of electrics, they had few economic advantages. For instance, in July 1912, the journal, Horseless Age, editorialized [16]:

"The recent heavy increase in the price of gasoline has evidently been a godsend to the electric truck industry. In spite of the fact that gasoline trucks are more suited for long distance hauls and electric trucks for urban work ...there is considerable rivalry between the two. There are many cases in which either a gasoline or an electric truck will satisfactorily do the work, and the choice between them is largely a matter of costs...the 50% increase in the price of gasoline therefore places the gasoline truck at a great disadvantage."

A year later, the Hardware Trade Journal noted that [17]:

"With the rapid rise in the price of gasoline, which was little more than 25 c a gallon 12 months ago is now 43¢ ...the disadvantage of the comparatively high running cost under which the electrically driven vehicle labored has now disappeared, and with electrical energy at its present price, and a certainty that it will be reduced rather than increased in the near future, a tradesman could run on a small electric carrier more cheaply than one which depended on petrol."

At a meeting of the Electric Vehicle Association in February 1913, one member predicted a "golden harvest for electric vehicle manufacturers" because of the rise of oil from 65¢ to $2.35 a barrel since the turn of the century [17, p. 359]. These arguments continued to be popular for the next decade [18].* Moreover, not only did gasoline prices rise starting in 1910, but experts predicted that they would continue to do so, based on their estimate of the continued rapid growth in internal combustion vehicle use versus the limited scope of proven oil reserves [19].

III. The Realities Of The Situation

Most of the quotes from the last section refer to the electric commercial truck rather than the electric private automobile. This is because they were drawn mainly from the post-1910 period, when the electric pleasure car was rapidly declining, but when there was renewed interest in the electric commercial vehicle. Historians of the automobile have already noted this pattern for the gasoline vehicle-until the end of the first decade of this century almost all automobile promotion focused on the goal of personal mobility, with delivery vehicles and cargo transport playing a decidedly secondary role [20]. The same was true for the electric vehicle except that here it was even more pronounced; the increased importance of the gasoline truck after 1910 was not accompanied by a decline in interest in the private gasoline car, but such a decline did accompany rising interest in the electric truck.

The reasons for these developments are clear. Unlike most earlier transportation technologies, such as canals, railroads, horsecars, and trolleys, the automobile was not invented for purely commercial, load-carrying, business motives. Its invention had a more romantic motivation-that of providing individual freedom of movement. Perhaps this was inevitable, since early gasoline and electric vehicles were so prone to breakdown that it is hard to imagine hardheaded businessmen giving up their old, reliable horses and wagons to experiment with the new contraptions. For such a practical thing as a delivery vehicle, the important factor in getting businessmen to buy them was proof that the new technology was cheaper than the horse. Before the period, 1905-1910, such data were not available. In this period, however, the technical journals began to carry detailed bookkeeping proof of the superiority of both electric and gasoline trucks over the horse. Therefore, although both electric and gasoline commercial vehicles were sold from 1900 on, it is not surprising that they only began to attract significant interest near the end of the decade [21].

As was indicated earlier, the promoters of electric pleasure cars knew that they faced handicaps from gasoline vehicle competition-the speed and cruising range of gasoline cars were greater and there was no way to eliminate this handicap. Here, however, the realities of road transport at the turn of the century need to be considered. Almost all long-range transport was done by train; the quality of the roads between cities discouraged travel. Good roads existed inside cities, and the electric pleasure vehicle was designed to operate here. It was

intended as a replacement for the horse and buggy of the urban middle and upper classes. It was not intended to compete in the consumer market with the gasoline car, but rather was intended to complement the role of that other vehicle. James Flink has shown that most of the early car manufacturers, whether of gasoline, electric, or steam cars, shunned the concept of the cheap, mass-marketed car. That is, the manufacturing concepts we usually associate with American automobile makers were not widely held in the U.S. at first. On the contrary, the early pattern was to produce expensive cars aimed at a well-to-do market [22]. Most of the makers of electric cars saw things this way, as, for example, in this aristocratic option proposed by an executive of the Waverly Car Company [23]:

"It was suggested that a man having $4500 to invest in pleasure cars should buy a $3000 electric for city and suburban use and a $1500 gasoline car for long-distance touring."

Another electric manufacturer observed at the same time that:

"...advertising must appeal to 'ease, pleasure and snobbishness.' The idea of economy in pleasure car use has been overworked. Let agents and salesmen direct their efforts to the rich."

Flink suggests three major reasons for the quick decline of the electric: its high initial cost, high operating cost, and short range [22, p. 45]. Although these were serious limitations, and although they were to a great degree unavoidable, they were also partly self-imposed. Urban dwellers who maintained a horse and buggy were well-to-do, and since the electric automobile was designed to replace the buggy, it was built expensively. From 1910 on, some attempts were made to build inexpensive electric cars to stave off the final victory of gasoline, and the prices of these cheap electrics suggest that there was no inherent reason why electrics had to be very much more costly than internal combustion cars [24].* Moreover, the range of early electric pleasure cars was deliberately kept short-usually 30-40 miles-because it was seen as unnecessary to provide a large, cumbersome number of batteries for a car which would only have to go short distances around town at slow speeds. After all, that was what the horse and buggy did. One authority said that the reason why it was unnecessary to give an electric a greater range than about 30 miles was that this was all a horse-drawn vehicle could do without a change of horse [25]. As time went on, however, and inventors realized that both the horse and the electric car were being replaced by gasoline, many of them extended the range by adding more batteries to their cars [26].

Manufacturers of electrics thought that they would always retain a share of the market. The problem was, however, that the gasoline car did not remain modestly in its place as a sporting vehicle for touring the countryside, where its smell, noise, and other unpleasant qualities were tolerable. These unpleasant qualities were reduced as a result of rapid technological evolution in gasoline car design. But another important reason for the failure of the electric pleasure car was not a technological, but a social one. The automobile's chief appeal was freedom; it provided people with an entirely new kind of personal mobility, and this mobility contributed to the great social changes of the 20th century. Psychologically and subconsciously, many people at the turn of the century perceived this, and this no doubt had much to do with the mushrooming growth of the gasoline car industry. The inventors of the gasoline car perceived, however uncertainly and imperfectly, the new social realities of the 20th century which their technology would help to generate. The inventors of the electric, on the other hand, had no such vision; the electric was designed to serve the urban upper classes with a greater degree of convenience and ease than the horse and buggy, but with little greater range or speed. In other words, the electric's promoters showed no perception of the feedback relationship which exists between a new technology and the preexisting social needs it is created to serve. Technologies must be adapted to social conditions, and in this sense, the electric pleasure car was an intelligent innovation. But technologies also change social conditions, and the gasoline car so changed the public's desire for transportation that the electric was no longer adapted to that new desire. This was a serious disadvantage.

For the commercial vehicle market, however, these non-economic considerations were irrelevant. Here it was appropriate to propose the electric as a replacement for the urban, horse-drawn delivery vehicle, since it could provide a number of advantages. By around 1910, sufficient quantitative data had been collected to prove the superiority of electric drive over the horse, and even over gasoline in some cases. Therefore, although the private electric car became a rarity in both Europe and the United States by the 1920's, the electric delivery wagon remained common in American cities until the Great Depression, and it has always remained popular in Europe.

Economic analyses of horse versus electric vehicles were a common feature in the technical press between 1910 and 1920. The most favorable analyses gave electric trucks a 75100 percent total cost advantage over horses [27]. It would seem, however, that more reliable analyses put the overall cost advantage of the electric over the horse at around 25 percent. In 1912, for example, one analysis of costs put the electric's advantage for heavy trucks at 22 percent and for medium trucks at 28 percent [28]. One of the best analyses was published in 1913 by two M.I.T. researchers. Based upon total costs per delivery for various types of delivery vehicles, the additional total costs for gasoline and horse vehicles over those of the electrics were, on a percentage basis [29]:

Gasoline Horse
1/2 ton Urban Delivery Vehicle 19% 7%
1/2 ton Suburban Delivery Vehicle 12% 27%
2 ton Furniture Delivery Truck 23% 13%
3.5 ton Beer Delivery Truck 19% 27%
5 ton Coal Delivery Truck 13% 31%

Another analysis prepared in 1920 showed a $5-10 per day cost advantage for a 5-ton electric truck over a 5 ton gasoline truck; this advantage was roughly the same as that for the 1913 analysis above [30]. These analyses were prepared from records of actual commercial operation. Another persuasive piece of evidence about the excellent economics of the electric truck is that those large businesses which eventually employed large fleets of electrics usually began with only a small complement of trucks, and then built up their fleets as they became satisfied with the performance of the vehicles. Writers who analyzed sales patterns of electric trucks pointed this out [31]:

"A peculiar feature of the increasing business, however, is the fact...that for the past two years nearly 70% of the commercial vehicles placed in service was purchased by firms already using electric trucks, so that the gain in new business...represents only about 30% of total output."

Despite these economic advantages, however, gasoline trucks far outstripped electric trucks. In 1913, for example, one survey indicated that only 10 percent of commercial vehicles were electrics [32]. By 1925, this had dropped to only 3-4 percent [33]. A combination of factors was responsible for this failure of the electric to capture more than a tiny fraction of the commercial market. The two most important were the lack of economy of electric trucks if not used in large fleets, and the lack of their promotion by electric utilities. These two factors were closely related.

The total cost for a business to operate one gasoline truck was only slightly above one-tenth the cost of ten trucks, but for a single electric truck, the total costs were significantly more than a tenth of a ten vehicle fleet. First, the user of the electric had to install charging equipment, and attendants were needed during night hours to operate this equipment. If the electric supply of the area was ac, rectification was necessary; in those days that meant a relatively expensive motor generator. Secondly, even though gasoline vehicles were more mechanically complicated than electrics, they could tolerate more neglect; early lead-acid storage batteries deteriorated rapidly if not maintained constantly. The battery represented a substantial part of the total cost of any electric vehicle [25, pp. 11, 54-58].*

When these extra costs were spread over a large fleet of electric trucks, they were small on a per-vehicle basis, but for a single vehicle they were substantial. The M.I.T. analysis presented above failed to take into account this variable and, therefore, we can only assume it to have been accurate for a large fleet of trucks. Moreover, another factor which favored the use of electrics by large businesses was the lower rates charged by utilities for larger consumption of current. It is therefore clear these factors would have had a depressing influence on the adoption of electric trucks by smaller businesses, as numerous articles of the period pointed out [34]. Accordingly, unless utility companies themselves went into the business of operating electric vehicle garages on a large scale, such vehicles would be restricted to those companies which maintained enough of them to justify running their own garage. Therefore, most electric trucks were used only in the largest cities and by the largest users. In 1913, for example, of 6000 electric trucks reported operating in the United States, New York and Chicago accounted for a third of the total, while eleven other cities accounted for another third [35]. Another 1913 list indicated that in New York, 18 firms accounted for 1099 electrics; an average of 61 trucks per firm [35, p. 269]. Other cities had similar patterns. Chief purchasers of electric trucks were the express companies (American Express: 300 in 1913; Adams Express: 250 in 1912); department stores (Gimbels: 76 in 1912); home delivery bakeries (Wards: 230 in 1912); and breweries (Jacob Ruppert: 72 in 1912) [35].

Despite the fact that electric vehicle advocates complained about this narrowly restricted use of electrics, it was a pattern which continued unchanged through the years. In 1920, for example, one writer complained that [37]:

"Today the electric vehicle business is about confined to a few of the largest cities..."

and he explained that the cause of this was:

"...largely because of poor garage service."

The makers of electrics continually tried to impress upon the utility companies the great load-factor improving value of their products, but they also complained of the minimal response of the utilities. One of the chief reasons for the creation of the Electric Vehicle Association in 1910 was to encourage a cooperative effort between the utilities and the manufacturers.* Other sources confirm this early reluctance of utilities to set up and operate special garages for electric vehicles [38].

Around 1910, however, some utilities began to modify their position. Contemporary reports indicate that utilities were setting up charging garages, buying fleets of electrics for their own use, hiring battery technicians to advise customers and supervise truck maintenance, and conducting promotional campaigns to get merchants to buy electric trucks [39]. A closer examination of these reports, however, reveals that most of the more serious support for electrics (e.g., the creation of special garages) was limited to a few of the Edison companies in large cities [40]. The leaders were New York, Chicago, and Denver. The big city Edison systems still used dc in downtown commercial areas, so rectification was not needed.

The evidence suggests that there was a direct correlation between those cities whose utilities went into the garage business and the number of electric trucks operating in those cities. Certainly this was the opinion expressed by contemporary electric vehicle proponents. And despite the sanguine hopes expressed around 1910-1913 that utilities had now seen the light and were helping to stimulate the use of electrics, only a small minority of utilities gave this campaign more than mini mal support. Articles published in 1920 attributed much of the poor showing of the electric vehicle industry to the lack of convenient garages [41].

IV. Conclusions

The foregoing study is presented as tentative; more detailed research is needed to sharpen our knowledge of the early electric vehicle's unhappy career. In particular, more precise information is needed about the relative indifference of utility companies to the vehicle market potential. Nevertheless, I believe that it is possible for us to draw certain conclusions which may be helpful for our own time, in which the growing shortages and expense of gasoline, coupled with the dubious possibility of bringing back the horse and buggy as a substitute, make the resurrection of electric road vehicles a much- discussed alternative.

I have emphasized that the electric pleasure car industry failed not solely because its proponents failed to understand the electric's technological limitations vis-a-vis the gasoline car, but because they failed to perceive the psychological and social changes which automobile technology would produce. Electric car technology could not change sufficiently to adapt itself to the public's rapidly evolving demand for greater range and speed. The gasoline car accustomed people to demand increasingly more freedom of movement, while the electric could only provide them with the degree of freedom they already had. But our period today, on the other hand, is becoming one in which the public is more receptive to technologies which preserve the degree of freedom they now have, rather than to extend their degrees of freedom. Rather than desiring to go further and faster, the American motorist today is looking for ways of conserving his present range.

In addition, a number of major economic and technological changes have occurred in the past half-century to make electrics more acceptable. First, modern electrical and electronic technology makes it more feasible for an individual to set up a charging plant in his own home. For example, feedback control systems can carry out charging automatically, and these systems could even be controlled partly from the central stations themselves to take best advantage of low-demand hours. Second, advances in battery technology have made available much more durable, low maintenance batteries-here, I speak not of exotic new systems, but of the classic lead-acid cell [42]. Third, economic advance since 1910 permits most families today to afford two cars, and, therefore, the idea of owning an electric and a gasoline car is no longer a snobbish, aristocratic option [43].*

If utility companies after 1910 had been more active in setting up and operating garages, it is likely that many more smaller merchants would have adopted the electric than in fact did. That the utilities did not do so, however, is understandable. The big growth area in electric service in the post-1910 era was domestic consumption. Utility companies saw home appliances as much more valuable than the electric vehicle. Electric vehicle proponents claimed that their charging was better for load-factor improvement, since the charging was done mostly after midnight, when other demand was lowest. Such arguments were not entirely convincing, however, since little charging was done on weekends, and, since charging took 8- 12 hours, it was often begun during peak hours. Finally, domestic appliances required no investment by the utilities-the housewife kept her toaster or iron at home, not in a special garage. Therefore, although the utility companies were not unaware of the advantages of creating a large electric vehicle load (they had, for example, the useful experience of the trolley motor load in many cities), they usually ignored it since they were preoccupied with a much bigger, cheaper, and more certain market.

Today, on the other hand, utility companies may become more receptive to the stimulation of electric vehicle load. The day is past when utilities were motivated to encourage customers to use increasingly larger current-consuming appliances; even if the energy crisis had not happened, power engineers reached the point of diminishing returns from creating economies of scale by building ever larger power plants twenty years ago, and the shift to nuclear power makes this even more serious [44]. Today, the chief concern of utilities is to decrease cost per kilowatt-hour by economies such as increasing the load-factor, and there is no better way of doing this than by increasing late night load, when most vehicle charging could be scheduled today.

Does all this mean that a modern electric vehicle industry would be certain to do much better than its unfortunate extinct ancestor? Of course not; historical comparisons can provide insights into the future, but they cannot provide infallible forecasting. Nevertheless, the insights provided by the foregoing analysis are encouraging enough to suggest that a modern electric road vehicle, even without exotic new types of storage batteries, might find rapid acceptance for many purposes, both private and commercial, particularly if the industry were given some sort of initial stimulation to get it going.

Manuscript received October 21, 1979, revised March 12, 1980. This Work was supported by a National Science Foundation grant.

The author was with the Department of History, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061. He is now deceased.

Richard H. Schallenberg was born in Chicago, IL, in June 1943. He received the B.S. degree in chemical engineering from Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, Brooklyn, NY, in 1965. In 1968 he came back from the War in Vletnam and started reading economic history at Columbia University, New York, NY, then continuing at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute with Rom Sviedrys who whetted his interest in the History of Technology and led him to do his early pioneer work on the charcoal iron industry. He came to Yale University, New Haven, CT, in 1970, still marked ly affected by his war experience and by a brittle diabetic condition. From the beginning he was a model student; I've never known another who habitually turned in all papers a week early and his thesis six months ahead of deadline. He saw at the outset that the crucial areas in history of technology were its interfaces with business and economic history on the one side and history of science on the other. He set out to make himself well read and competent in both areas, and he succeeded and exhibited mastery of such consolidation of internal and external histories of science and technology in his thesis on The Electric Battery 1800-1930, A Case Study in Technological Innovation. On appointment to Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, he rapidly became an excellent teacher, full of new plans for the substantive development of our field. Professionally he gave tremendous service within our societies, most notably by doing all the work that enabled us to have a series of Guides to Graduate Study and estimates of manpower and employment at a time when such documentation was crucial for all institutions in the fields. Just as he had won his tenure and Associate Professorship and was in the midst of publishing increasingly important papers, Dick died suddenly at his home in April 1980. He had achieved so much already and we are in his debt' but the loss of one of the few such competent persons is a professional as well as a personal matter of heavy grief. (This obituary originally appeared in Technology and Culture.)


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