EVs Were More Popular 100 Years Ago, but They Had the Same Major Problem

David Wayne Buck / shutterstock.com
David Wayne Buck / shutterstock.com

It’s no secret that we can learn quite a lot from history. In fact, it’s been said and even proven that knowledge of our past can do much to help us understand and make better choices for our future.

However, it would seem that the Biden administration and your average leftist electric vehicle advocate have never heard of such wisdom.

Why do I say that?

Well, because if either diehard EV advocates or the Biden administration had done their homework (aka a little history research), they would know that EVs are still having the same problems they had over a hundred years ago.

Yes, you might be asking, electric vehicles have existed in the United States for that long.

In fact, in the late 1890s, they were even more popular than their gas-guzzling counterparts. However, the same problems that plagued them today are the ones that led to their demise.

Electric vehicles began to emerge as one of the first “horseless carriages” around the beginning of the 20th century. According to records by the US Department of Energy, experiments on battery-powered wagons in both the US and Europe were noted as early as the 1830s.

By 1890, Iowa chemist William Morrison was credited with the first successful EV on the roads with his 14-passenger wagon that could travel at speeds of 14mph. Within just a few years, they had gained much popularity, with New York having at least 60 electric taxis.

Like most new technologies, they were essentially novelties for the rich and famous at first. However, it didn’t take long for their quicker travel speeds to become popular with professionals like doctors who might need to make quick and urgent house calls.

Now, to be clear, EVs weren’t the only engines on the road. Gasoline and steam were also on the scene.
Steam was the most popular for a short time, helped by its long-time use on railways and marine industries.

Steam might have been familiar and tested after decades of use on railways and in the marine industry.

However, it could take as long as 45 minutes to get a steam engine to attain the amount of steam needed. And then frequent stops to add water to the engine were necessary.

So no quick and unplanned trips or stops.

For gasoline engines, things weren’t all that much better. They were noisy, smelly, and dangerous, given that they had to be hand-cranked. Those engines could misfire, making the hand crank jerk, and many were noted to have broken an arm in such instances.

In comparison, EVs were quiet, free of fumes, given the urban electrical grid of the day, and were usually easily charged. According to Quartz, this made them the vehicle of choice for most, especially those living in the city, as well as for women who might not be able to hand crank a gas engine to life.

Records from 1899 show 1,575 EVs on the road compared to 936 gasoline-powered ones.
But, just as they do today, there were downfalls.

For starters, they were far more expensive than either their steam or combustion engine counterparts. Henry Ford’s Model T was sold for $650 in 1912, while an EV required more than twice that much at $1,750.

Of course, it didn’t help that during that same year, Charles Kettering invented the electric starter, making hand cranking, and one major reason EVs were preferred, a thing of the past for the gasoline engine.

Not long after this, fields in Texas were discovered to be full of massive oil reserves, giving rise to the availability of oil and gasoline to the average American, including in rural areas where electricity had not been installed.

And with recently installed distribution systems having been laid for earlier kerosene lighting use, the foundation of oil and gas pipelines was well on its way to becoming the system we have in place today.

And so, the popularity of the EV dropped.

Here we are, over a hundred years later, and EVs are getting another push, albeit a not-so-natural one. And yet, it would seem that the problems are still the same ones faced back then: cost, lack of infrastructure, and range.

EVs today are still far more expensive. They still aren’t equipped with the resources necessary for long-term use. And their range is clearly grossly limited, especially when faced with cold temperatures, heavy loads, or not-so-even terrain.

Someone should have done their research before touting these as the car of the future.