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Electric Cars In 1908?

Electric Cars in 1908?

Electric cars are suddenly the cars of choice. Baker Motor Vehicle and Columbia Automobile Company are making some of the most popular models. Oldsmobile and Studebaker start life as successful Electric Vehicle Companies. The first car dealerships are exclusively for EVs.

Of the 4,192 cars produced in the United States, EVs represent about one-third of all cars found on the roads of New York, Boston, and Chicago. And an all-electric taxi fleet has taken to the streets of New York City.

While on the sporting front, a streamlined EV, powered by two 12-volt motors, is capturing worldwide attention with a speed record of 66 MPH.

The year is 1900. William McKinley is president. Yale, at 12 and 0, doesn’t need the BCS to tell them they’re the NCAA Champions. The novel Sister Carrie causes a minor scandal. And electric cars are everywhere.

In fact, in 1903 an electric car had the proud distinction of getting the first speeding ticket. Twenty seven years later, Clara Ford, Henry’s wife, was still tooling around in her prized 1914 Detroit Electric Brougham, visiting chums and making her rounds on the family’s Michigan estate.

It’s not important that, for various reasons, gas-driven vehicles eventually drove them off the road. What is important is that, like Lazarus, they’re rising from the dead.

And this time, it looks like they’re here to stay.

For starters, Tesla Motors, a Silicon Valley start-up, is set to roll out in 2008. They claim that their all-electric roadster will go from 0 to 60 mph in just four seconds, travel 250 miles on a single charge (and can recharge simply by plugging into a regular AC outlet), and retail for about $80,000. Tesla’s second-generation car, due out in 18 to 24 months, will be somewhat more popularly priced at around $50,000.

Looking further down the road, The Wrightspeed, created by Ian Wright, who formerly worked at Tesla, is another Silicon Valley entrant. It’s a high-performance all-electric $120,000 roadster that dusted off a $440,000 Porsche on a test track. And Wright’s X1, which is not yet in production, presumably blew the doors off a Ferrari 360 Spider in a drag race.

For the more practical minded, there’s the highly maneuverable Tango, offered by Seattle-based Commuter Cars Corp. It seats – you guessed it – two. One behind the other, like on a motorcycle. Don’t get too excited yet. According to the company’s Web site, “This car has not been designed yet as it will require a team of engineers, tens of millions of dollars, and at least 18 months to meet all of the safety requirements.”

Then there’s the The Th!nk. Ford originally had it, but sold it to a Norwegian team, who are looking to introduce this nifty vehicle back into the U.S. market.

And still in the concept stage, is a new kind of EV called the Volt. GM, the main culprit in the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car, is now trying to save it with “an innovative rechargeable electric drive system and range-extending power source that can be configured to run on electricity, gasoline, E85 or bio diesel.”

No doubt some of these highly charged ideas will drop by the wayside, but, with the technology apparently in place, enough will survive to awaken the ghosts of EV’s past. And more of these environmentally and economy friendly EVs will hit the roads.

If we’ve learned anything from the past, it’s that this is all good for us. Already industries shut out of electric markets are exploring biofuels and hydrogen as potential markets they can control. We can see a day soon, no doubt, when the price of gasoline will drop as mysteriously as it went up, and we’ll have vehicles that can get more miles to a gallon than anyone thought possible.

Electric or gasoline? Or ethanol? Or any number of fuel alternatives? Or…?

Won’t it be nice to have a choice?


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