by Greg Walcher, E&E Legal Senior Policy Fellow
As appearing in the Daily Sentinel

Electric cars are set to dominate the worldwide automobile market. They account for more than a third of all cars on the road, and gas-powered cars are only 22%. The year is 1900, and both engine types will soon overtake primitive steam-powered vehicles, still 40% of the vehicles in America. Although Stanley Steamers rarely explode, many Americans fear they might and their hissing noise scares the horses. The future of gasoline cars is also doubtful, owing to their unbearable noise, the dirty and dangerous job of hand cranking to start them, and the difficulty in finding gas.

Thomas Edison, who has electrified New York City literally, and the American imagination figuratively, has purchased a Baker Electric, and is touting the quiet dependable nature of his lead-acid batteries as the future of transportation. Walter Bearsey designed a fleet of electric cabs in London and several companies followed in New York. Their short range is not an issue in cities and 12 miles an hour beats the horse-drawn carriages.

Fast-forward to 1910: 35 electric car companies are selling well in the U.S. The 1915 Standard Electric, using Westinghouse motors, boasts speeds of 20 miles an hour, though its $1,800 price limits it to wealthy buyers.

Electric cars held the land speed records until 1900, with French cars recording speeds of 39-57 miles an hour. The record was broken in 1902 by both steam and gas-powered cars and by 1904 Henry Ford’s gas-powered car was clocked at 91 miles an hour. Electrics were quiet, comfortable, and easy to drive, but they had challenges, too, primarily their high cost, slow speed, short battery range, and lack of charging stations.

Read more.