the invention of the first electric motor strong enough to do work
in 1834 people have been dreaming
of electric powered transportation. Electric cars, trains and trolleys
are older than most people think. In this page we focus on the electric
car, but do discuss trains and trolleys since their roots are connected.
first powerful direct current electric motor was originally invented
by Thomas Davenport in Brandon,
Vermont in 1834. Prior to this other inventors had made weak devices
that created motion, but these devices were not suitable for doing
any jobs for humankind. Davenport was just a blacksmith by trade,
but he dreamed a future with electric trains and trolleys. He build
a scale model electric train that went around an oval track. Davenport
died young, but many others continued to develop electric transportation.
Leading up to the electric car some components had to be invented:
1821 - Michael Faraday creates
the first weak experimental electromagnet 1831 -Joseph
Henry builds the first powerful electromagnet (the main
component of the electric motor) 1834 - Thomas
Davenport develops the first electric motor for commercial use.
He creates an electric miniature train and model car. His inventions
fail to become profitable since he was using unreliable primitive
batteries and the DC dynamo had not been invented yet.
1851 - The US Senate funds an experimental
electric railway from Washington DC to Baltimore. It was engineered
Grafton Page. The effort fails when the batteries crack
and coils overheat. Steam still proves to be more practical at this
1883 - England opens the first commercially
successful electric tram/trolley engineered by Magnus Volk 1886 - Frank
Sprague invents the first practical DC motor, it is capable of
consistent speed under varying loads and does not creating sparks
1887 - Frank Sprague uses his DC
motor in trolley systems in North America
1897 - Electric cars first used
in commercial use as taxis in New York City. They were built by the
Electric Carriage and Wagon Company of Philadelphia. 1897
- Baker Motor Vehicle Company founded by Walter
C. Baker. Baker made a vehicle with 100 miles range on a charge and
top speeds of 22 mph.
1900 - 38% of US automobiles are
powered by electricity 1900 - Ferdinand Porsche builds
electric cars with max speeds up to 37 mph. Includes the first hybrid
electric car and first all wheel drive car. 1900 - Smaller electric vehicle
companies were swallowed up quickly over a 2 year period: Electric
Carriage and Wagon Co + Pope Manufacturing Co + Riker get absorbed
into Electric Vehicle Company. These companies provide cars for the
New York City taxi constituency 1900s - Baker Motor Co. produces
an electric racing car with top speed of 120 mph. 1907 - Bank crash fatally wounds
the financial side of Electric Vehicle Company
1912 - End of the reign of electric
cabs in New York City. Now the demand supporting the electric car
industry is greatly weakened. 1916 - Baker Motor Company stops
production 1916 - First hybrid electric car
1970s - After the price of gasoline
hits record highs the interest in electric cars is rekindled. The
US Department of Energy funds efforts to try to make a cost effective
1982 - First modern
hybrid car is made at GE Research Lab. It is computer controlled
and is the ancestor of current commercial hybrid cars. 1989
- Audi creates a hybrid called the "Duo" with NiCad batteries
and a 5 cylinder gas engine. The vehicle never sees mainstream production
1995 - Toyota debuted a hybrid
concept car at the Tokyo Motor Show 1997 - The first Prius went on
sale in the Japanese market. 1997 - Audi creates the Duo III
and it makes it to series production 1998 - Nissan produces 200 of
the Altra EV from 1998-2002
2008 - Tesla Motors sells the
Tesla Roadster with a 200+ mile range 2009 - Ford Fusion hybrid is released 2010 - Nissan Leaf all electric
car sold. Synchronous electric motor used on front axle. 2010 - Mercedes-Benz collaborates
with Tesla Motor Company to produce the A-Class E-Cell 2011 - Chevy Volt, hybrid car,
sold in US market 25-50 mile range
We are still building this section of the page, but you can learn
more about the components of an electric car on other parts of our
Baker Electric Car was produced by Baker Motor Vehicle Company.
Based in Cleveland, Ohio, they produced some well performing early
electric cars. Cleveland's history with the electricity began in
the 1870's with local pioneer of electricity Charles F. Brush
who created the first city lighting systems in North America using
set of photos are from what is probably a 1903 Baker Electric. Originally
we thought it was a 1901 Baker Electric due to documents registering
the car to E. W. Rice of General Electric
but under the seat there is a GE motor with a 1903 patent as the last
date, therefore the car may be from as early as 1903. It is possible
this is a 1901 and it was restored in the 1970's using a 1903 motor.
A motor under the seat
Baker Electric uses a chain drive
Batteries in the front and rear of the car. These batteries are not original.
Edison lead-acid batteries were originally used.
Automobile Motor No 116324 Application GE1020
E2WO ??? 26 Volts 48 Speed 1980 Patented July 9 '89 ?? 25, '90 July
8, '90 Nov 10, 91 Oct 22, '95 May 5, '96 Dec 14 '97 Jan 31'99 May
12 1903 General Electric Co. Schenectady, N.Y., U.S.A.
Below: video of this car in action:
Mercury Arc Rectifier Battery
Charger for the Baker Electric's Edison Batteries. That is a slate
VIDEO: Electric Car charger used for the Baker
Electric and Detroit Electric:
of Porsche, Professor Ferdinand Porsche had a strong interest in
electric vehicles. He designed his own electric vehicles and even
operated the vehicles in races. Porsche created the first hybrid
electric car in 1900 and continued to produce various electric vehicles,
some of which could reach top speeds of 37 mph.
Porsche had sold 5 Lohner-Porsche Mixte cars at luxury prices. His
work on hybrids cost a lot and cars could only be sold at prices
twice that of comparable gasoline models. Porsche faired much better
selling his pure electric cars with 65 being sold in the first 5
Detroit Electric Car Company (1907-1939) produced a very effective
and practical fully electric set of vehicles. The vehicles were controlled
by a level from the back seat.
many cars of the day it was very appealing to women as it did not
require operating a dangerous crank like a gasoline engine. The car
was appealing to many as it had interior and exterior electric lights.
Gasoline engines of the day had only oil lanterns which were tricky
to light and keep operating.
In the video below this 1914 Detroit Electric Car was owned by electrical
pioneer Charles P.Steinmetz. He rode inthe back and had a driver use
the tiller in the front.
video of Steinmetz's
electric car pulling out of the Edison Tech Center
This video will be posted shortly
First Western Hybrid Electric Car, 1916:
first hybrid electric car company in the Western Hemisphere was called
the Owen Magnetic Motor Car Corporation. The company eventually failed
due to the high cost of production and the fact that the car did not
save much fuel compared to the standard small gas motors of the time.
The car had a 6 cylinder engine.
car was sold under the name "Crown Magnetic" in Great Britain.
The Owen Magnetic Motor Car Corporation existed from 1915-1922. Manufacturing
started in New York City and ended in Wilkes-Barre, PA.
In the 1980's computers became powerful and compact enough to be used
to control a hybrid car engine and breaking. The computer made it
a practical and energy saving invention, see below "The First
Modern Hybrid Electric Car". The advent of computer controlled
hybrids may be the reason why hybrids did not develop further after
Owen shut down in 1922.
Cars at GE in the 1970's:
about Bob King's research at General Electric, published in the Monogram
Failure of Electric Cars in the 1970s and 1980s:
the early 20th century cities were dense, built around trolley lines
or walking distance to work places and downtown. The early electric
cars functioned well for these short distances. By the late 20th century
cities had exploded in size with 30+ mile commutes being commonplace,
especially in North America. This energy intensive lifestyle proved
very difficult for making electric cars feasible on a mass scale.
motors are very efficient, they have been more efficient than gasoline
motors since the 1890s, however batteries proved to be a limiting
factor. Until higher energy density batteries were developed in the
1990s, cars had to use NiCad or other types
of batteries. These batteries had a bad weight to energy ratio.
The large weight and cost of batteries made electric cars impractical
for the majority of North American users.
was not necessarily a conspiracy stopping the electric car, if you
speak to people who worked on them in the 70s it is apparent that
technological limitations were behind the failure of electric cars
in a commercial sense. If one looks deeper it is the reckless sprawl
period of US urban development (1950 - 2000) that really killed the
electric car. In the 2000s development trends have shifted more towards
high density as the younger populations have a cultural difference
from the boomer generations.
First Modern Hybrid Electric Car:
Andrew Burke developed the first computer controlled hybrid-electric
vehicle in 1982 as part of the "Joint Feasibility Study of the
Hybrid Vehicle" funded by the US government and GE. When GE couldn't
sell the car to the big 3 US automakers, they sold the technology.
Toyota later makes it into a profitable technology.
The 1982 vehicle used a computer to control the engine and power system,
this enabled great cost savings. Also the breaking system helped recharge
the batteries. This was all possible due to the computer finally becoming
compact enough and powerful enough to work in a vehicle.
acquired patents for the modern hybrid electric car in the 1980s after
General Electric failed to find adequate interest in the American
car market. Toyota built upon the design and develop the Toyota Prius
which became the first profitable hybrid car in history. The car allowed
for modern users to drive long distances using gasoline while using
electric around town. This was necessary since urban design changed
greatly from the early part of the century.
Motor Company: Tesla Roadster and more
Motor Company emerged in the late 2000s with high performance
and high cost electric cars. The cars have the greatest range so far
(some with 300 miles). The vehicles appeal to the luxury market and
have a starting cost of $101,000.
New Rise of Electric Vehicles:
repeats itself, and once again we see the rise of electric vehicles
in the mainstream market. The Nissan Leaf, Honda Insight, and Chevy
Volt are all targeted at middle class markets and have proven to be
successful. With fuel prices rising many customers are seeing clear
of the downsides of electric vehicles are the high cost of replacement
batteries and what to do with the highly toxic waste. The long term
solution to this is providing power to the EV by way of the grid.
Providing grid power to vehicles would be by far the most energy efficient
method. As is proven by existing overhead tram / bus lines in Europe,
the cost of operating and energy consumption is worth it. Google's
projects with self-driving cars may help the development of grid powered
personal vehicles. By allowing cars to be controlled and spaced on
a road evenly, it would make it possible highways that act like train
lines between cities. Cars could connect to a "third rail"
and travel most of the miles without using batteries or fuel. Batteries
are getting smaller with time, and super/ultracapacitors may become
an alternative to batteries all together. Andy Burke, one of the inventors
of the modern hybrid car is testing ultra capacitors from many manufacturers,
see more about it here.
GE Electric Lawn Mower 1970:
Elec-Trak E15 lawn mower came out in 1970. We will have more
information here from local owners that still use the Elec-Trak.
Check back later for more!