History of Electric Vehicles

Decline and Rise of Electric Cars from 1930 to 1990

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Bellis, Mary. "History of Electric Vehicles." ThoughtCo, Aug. 6, 2016, thoughtco.com/history-of-electric-vehicles-p2-1991595. Bellis, Mary. (2016, August 6). History of Electric Vehicles. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-electric-vehicles-p2-1991595 Bellis, Mary. "History of Electric Vehicles." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-electric-vehicles-p2-1991595 (accessed October 20, 2017).

Decline of the Electric Vehicle

For the following reasons the electric car declined in popularity. It was several decades before there was a renewed interest.
  • By the 1920s, America had a better system of roads that now connected cities, bringing with it the need for longer-range vehicles.
  • The discovery of Texas crude oil reduced the price of gasoline so that it was affordable to the average consumer.
  • The invention of the electric starter by Charles Kettering in 1912 eliminated the need for the hand crank.
  • The initiation of mass production of internal combustion engine vehicles by Henry Ford made these vehicles widely available and affordable in the $500 to $1,000 price range. By contrast, the price of the less efficiently produced electric vehicles continued to rise. In 1912, an electric roadster sold for $1,750, while a gasoline car sold for $650.
Electric vehicles had all but disappeared by 1935. The years following until the 1960s were dead years for electric vehicle development and for their use as personal transportation.

The Return

The 60s and 70s saw a need for alternative-fueled vehicles to reduce the problems of exhaust emissions from internal combustion engines and to reduce the dependency on imported foreign crude oil. Many attempts to produce practical electric vehicles occurred during the years from 1960 and beyond.

Battronic Truck Company

In the early 60s, the Boyertown Auto Body Works jointly formed the Battronic Truck Company with Smith Delivery Vehicles, Ltd., of England and the Exide Division of the Electric Battery Company.
The first Battronic electric truck was delivered to the Potomac Edison Company in 1964. This truck was capable of speeds of 25 mph, a range of 62 miles and a payload of 2,500 pounds.

Battronic worked with General Electric from 1973 to 1983 to produce 175 utility vans for use in the utility industry and to demonstrate the capabilities of battery-powered vehicles.

Battronic also developed and produced about 20 passenger buses in the mid 1970s.

CitiCars & Elcar

Two companies were leaders in electric car production during this time. Sebring-Vanguard produced over 2,000 "CitiCars." These cars had a top speed of 44 mph, a normal cruise speed of 38 mph and a range of 50 to 60 miles.

The other company was Elcar Corporation, which produced the "Elcar". The Elcar had a top speed of 45 mph, a range of 60 miles and cost between $4,000 and $4,500.

United States Postal Service

In 1975, the United States Postal Service purchased 350 electric delivery jeeps from the American Motor Company to be used in a test program. These jeeps had a top speed of 50 mph and a range of 40 miles at a speed of 40 mph. Heating and defrosting were accomplished with a gas heater and the recharge time was 10 hours.

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