Don’t ever let anyone tell you electric cars are new–they aren’t–and here is plenty of proof. If we had been continuously developing battery technology since the electric cars listed below were in operation, most certainly we would be far better off today. No one knew then about climate change and how much impact air pollution could have on human health, but they actually had more electric car choices than we have today. This is just a handful of the electric vehicles from that era.
1891 Morrison (120 yrs. old)
Made by William Morrison in 1891, some say the Morrison was the first electric vehicle in America. It had a four horsepower engine , and could carry 6-12 passengers. Top speed was about 20 mph. The batteries needed to be recharged every 50 miles. It has been said the car was actually completed in 1887 and was driven in a Des Moines parade in 1888. If that is true, the Morrison was first built 124 years ago, and it was built in America, where today they are almost no electric cars on the roads.
1900 Riker (111 yrs. old)
A bulky enclosed cabin four passenger sedan that was made about the turn of the century, the Riker featured electric sidelamps, wooden-spoked wheels, and a voice tube so passengers could communicate with the driver. Cabin windows could be raised and lowered. 48 battery cells were onboard, with an electric engine near each rear wheel. The driver’s seat was about 6-7 feet in the air.
1901 Riker Torpedo (110 yrs. old)
Andrew Riker, the founder of Riker Electric Vehicles, made the Torpedo in 1901 to be the fastest car on the road. On Coney Island November 16, 1901 a Torpedo was driven one mile in 63 seconds, about 57 mph.
Studebaker 1902 (109 yrs. old)
Electric Studebakers were made starting in 1902. They made the bus pictured above and bodies for electric taxis. They also made cars which were available in a variety of styles.
1906 Krieger (105 yrs. old)
This vehicle was made in Paris, and it is presumed to have been owned by US Senator George P. Wetmore of Rhode Island. The Krieger actually had regenerative braking which could be used to recharge the batteries while coasting downhill. It had a tiller/steering wheel in the very front, and hubcaps!
1909 Babcock (102 yrs. old)
A Babcock electric vehicle set a mind-blowing record for its’ time. In October of 1906 the New York Times reported one driven by F.A. Babcock Jr. traveled 100 miles on a single charge. It averaged about 14-18 mph for the journey between Jersey City and Philadelphia. Only stock batteries were used. The previous record was 40 miles.
1909 Bailey (102 yrs. old)
The Bailey electrics were known for durability. One was driven through four New England states in the same run as an endurance test. A Bailey was also driven up part of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. The peak is over 6,000 feet. There were many more electrics on the road during the period. They were quieter and emitted less pollution directly than their gasoline counterparts.
Image Credits: 1900 Riker, Smithsonian, 1909 Babcock – Infrogmation, 1909 Bailey, Frick Auto Museum, Riker Torpedo, Owls Head Transportation Museum. All others public domain, or unknown.