The Automobile: Electric Vehicle Issue
This is an interesting read in today’s climate.
I was trolling around in Google Books, and I ran into an issue of The Automobile that is entirely about electric cars. The interesting thing is that the issue is from January 2, 1913.
This was roughly the peak of the electric car boom, and the magazine was pretty excited about them. For example, at one point it says:
The field of the electric for city and intercity use is practically limitless. Such a statement might have seemed absurd to the minds of most people 3 years ago, but so rapid have been the strides in the development of storage batteries, the manufacturer meanwhile keeping pace in the development of the mechanical parts of the car, that their use in city and suburb 5 years from now will be universal throughout the United States and Canada is a logical conclusion.
Well, that might have seemed logical, but in fact, 1912, the year before this article was written, was the peak for electric car production. In 5 years, electric cars really wouldn’t be much of a factor. Kettering patented his starter motor in 1911 and the oil booms in California and Texas caused the price of gasoline to drop quickly. The development of batteries and motors had been moving quickly when this magazine was published, but it slowed considerably after that.
The field was pretty exciting in 1913 though. Check out this cool new invention for charging your electric car from the new alternating current system in your house:
We might think that big vacuum tube rectifier looks strange, but it certainly looks simpler than this setup
I really like the section on all of the new heavy electric trucks that are coming out this year. Like this one from General Vehicles of Long Island.
A nice section starts on page 42 about how we’re waiting for a new battery technology to come along and replace lead-acid cells. That transition hasn’t gone as quickly as they might have hoped, has it?
And on page 8, there’s some good stuff about how we need to start limiting the speed of the cars because they’re getting so fast. They suggest a limit of 6 1/2 to 12 MPH for trucks (depending on size) and as much as 20 MPH for some types of high speed cars. The author does question whether these speeds are too high for a car that is controlled by a woman though.
There’s also a lot of interesting things in this magazine that aren’t specific to electric cars. For example, on page 7 it talks about insurance, and it starts out like this:
When the matter of insurance of automobiles was first brought out some years ago, it was treated rather lightly by owners, dealers, and even by those insurance companies which did not at the time right it.
And later it says:
It was once a very common saying that there is nothing about an automobile to burn, but experience has shown both owners and underwriters that cars of all descriptions can and do burn.
Wait a second, they’re talking about fire insurance! What about collision, comprehensive, and all that jazz? You didn’t need that? When did car insurance become mandatory?
That’s actually an interesting question this year, because it is probably our best model for adding a health insurance mandate in the US. And it turns out that it started in Massachusetts (in 1927), just like the health insurance mandate did (last year).