An electric car…from 1918?!

On my way home from the Shakedown stage of the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE, I decided to stop off in Dearborn at the Henry Ford. This is a beautiful museum that represents a collection of American culture as it has developed through the past 250 years. My favorite exhibit was obviously the collection of cars, and I managed to come across a gem of a car hidden in the back corner of the museum. Tucked away in a dark corner behind another exhibit is a 1918 Detroit Electric Car, and I would say that this car has a more important story to tell than any other car on exhibit. Electric cars were in fact produced and sold at the dawn of the automobile. These cars were even favored by many people, who didn’t want to worry about hand cranking an engine to life. They also didn’t like how loud engines were, nor did they like the smell of exhaust or the vibrating felt by the passengers. Electric cars, on the other hand, were smooth, quiet, and didn’t smell. The Detroit Electric was a widely known car back in the early 20th century. Even Henry Ford and Thomas Edison owned them! Although the top speed may have only been 20mph, this was average for any car of this time period. Better yet, these cars got up to 80 miles on a single charge!

                No one seems to be certain as to why electric cars eventually succumbed to the gasoline engine. Plenty of conspiracy theorists will tell you that oil companies had something to do with it, or that automakers saw more money in fixing the less reliable gas engines. Whatever theory you choose to believe, we know this as fact: electric vehicles were around and viable 100 years ago. Why can’t they be viable now? Also keep this in mind: The Ford Model T had a fuel economy of 13 to 21 mpg. US DOT statistics show that the average US passenger vehicle fuel economy was only 17.4mpg in 2008. Have petroleum engines really progressed, or is it time to try something new? The decision is yours.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Are you guys still in the Xprize? Did you pass the Shakedown? Your posts don’t indicate whether you passed or not.


  2. Hi there and thanks for following our blog! We a had a few action items to follow up on from shakedown but yes we are still in the competition!


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