Looking back at early battery/electric cars

Barry White

A long standing friend of mine from London sent me an email below which I thought I should share with you on our web site. The first electric powered car first appeared nearly 200 years ago and an electric vehicle held the vehicular land speed record until around 1900! In 1900, electric cars accounted for about one third of all vehicles on U.S. roads.

The high cost, low top speed, and short range of battery electric vehicles made them easy prey for the internal combustion engine…Mick writes:

‘Bit long winded but bear with me………One Freeview TV channel, 81 Talking Pictures TV, runs pretty much exclusively cinema stuff from the 50s and 60s you won’t see anywhere on the box. (They run a Saturday Morning Pictures section with dodgy serials, Green Hornet, Flash Gordon etc, children’s films etc. for those of you who recall going to that madness).

Anyhow, they have been running a series of Rank information films from that time called Look at life. In one episode Men with ideas it deals with the patent office and inventions, and in there is a solar powered electric car. Battery/electric cars first came about in the mid-19th century and this one looks like an early 20th century electric car with a bloody great solar panel slapped on top. The solar panel is easily recognisable as it looks no different in substance to one you’d see today. “From horsepower to sun power” the commentator says. The licence plate says California Horseless Carriage and there is a date of 1960 badged on it which I guess means the solar vehicle could’ve been earlier than that.

“This is the way into tomorrow. One day, who knows, someone might find a way of solving our traffic problems” says the commentary – some hope!

Lots of men standing round smoking pipes, archaic attitudes towards women, class, empire etc. but a window on the world I was born into, kind of.’

You can read more about the early electric car at: https://www.energy.gov/articles/history-electric-car

and at: https://www.automostory.com/first-solar-car.htm


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