Historical Timeline



Electric Vehicles

From Clay McShane, The Automobile: A Chronology (Greenwood Press, 1997).


·  First successful electric trolley installation by Frank J. Sprague in Richmond, demonstrates the possibilities of electric power for travel.


·  Wm. Morrison (Des Moines) devises the first functional U.S. electric car, claims it can do 22 kph.


·  Inventors show two electric vehicles, a circus steamer, and an i.c. Daimler at the Chicago World's Fair. The latter piques Henry Ford's interest. Auto pioneers like the Studebaker brothers, the Duryea brothers, William Durant, Elwood Haynes, Ransom Olds, and Alexander Winton also went to the Fair.


·  Thomas Edison forecasts the triumph of the motor car. Henry Ford, chief engineer of Detroit Edison, tells a skeptical Edison that the new vehicles will be internal combustion, not electric powered.


·  A Riker Electric car decisively defeats an i.c. Duryea at the first track race in the U.S. at Narragansett Park, RI.


·  The Electric Vehicle Co., Wall St.'s first adventure into auto manufacturing (backed by such investors as William C. Whitney, Thomas F. Ryan and Samuel Instill), makes 2,000 electric taxicabs. Its local affiliates will go bankrupt within a year.


·  New York city electric cabbie Arthur Smith hits H.H. Bliss, the first American pedestrian killed by a car.


·  Police arrest New York City cabbie James Donahue for driving an electric cab down Fifth Ave. supposedly at 56 kph.


·  Bullet-shaped, electric powered La Jamais Contente (Never Satisfied) driven by Camille Jenatzy, travels over a mile-a-minute, 65.8 mph (105.3 kph).


·  There are more electric cars (900) than any other kind made in the U.S., mostly by the Electric Vehicle Co. They cost roughly fifty per cent more than i.c. cars, have a twenty mile (at 16 kph) cruising radius, and can't handle hills with more than a 20% grade.


·  Short-lived electric omnibus service begins on Fifth Ave., New York City.


·  Gasoline cars beat electrics for the first time at the Washington Park race track in Chicago.


·  The construction of six charging stations in New Jersey make travel from Philadelphia to New York possible.


·  Boston has 36 recharging stations costing 10 cents a kilowatt hour, a service not available in the suburbs. Per kilometer, recharging is four times more expensive than gasoline.


·  Of the 24 women car owners in the District of Columbia, 6 own electric cars, all under 2 horsepower. Not a single woman owns one five years later.


·  Early ad directed at women: "A contented woman is she who operates a Babcock Electric. She knows there is nothing to fear."


·  Harper's Weekly describes electric cars as "utterly worthless practically."


·  The Electric Vehicle Co., once capitalized at $20 million, goes bankrupt.


·  Motor Age describes Edison's repeated predictions of a storage battery allowing electrics to operate more cheaply than gasoline-fueled cars as a "joke."


·  Improved electric vehicles have a 50-80 to mile cruising radius.


·  Victor Appleton Jr. (pseudonym for Edward Stratemeyer) publishes Tom Swift and his Electric Runabout, or the Speediest Car on the Road. Technical visionaries are already plugging electric cars.


·  Waverly Electric advertises a car for women with a rear-facing front seat and steering lever for drivers in the center of the back seat. The arrangement allows drivers to converse face to face with all passengers.


·  As interest in electric cars wanes, Woods tries to salvage the technology with a dual engined (gas and electric) car.


·  Locomobile, once the largest American car maker, fails. Within ten years, Detroit Electric, Doble, Dupont, Durant, Franklin, Kisell, Marmon, Pierce-Arrow, Reo, Studebaker Stutz, Willys, and others will follow suit. The shakeout ends specialty car, including electric production in the U.S.


·  Westinghouse's all electric House of Tomorrow at the Chicago Exposition features an electric garage door opener and many other novel electric appliances, but no electric car.

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