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Cars

Published on April 11th, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan

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Henry Ford’s Wife Wouldn’t Drive Ford Model T, Kept Her Electric Car

April 11th, 2014 by  


detroit electricTo many, electric cars are a completely new thing. However, they actually have a long history in the United States. For some time, they were the top dog. However, due to battery limitations many decades ago, they got replaced with gasmobiles.

With recent advancements, electric cars are back. But it’s important to note that many of their key benefits are the same today as they were back in the early 20th century.

For example, they are much simpler, cleaner, safer, and nicer to drive. Henry Ford’s wife knew this, as did many women of the early 20th century. Clara Ford apparently wouldn’t drive the Model T. She stuck to her electric car instead, a 1914 Detroit Electric. Here’s more from TIME magazine, via the GM-Volt forum:

Girls dig electric cars. At least that was the marketing message back in 1915, when petrol-powered autos were beginning to decisively pull away from electric ones. Battery-powered vehicles retained popularity among female drivers in cities, who valued them for their reliability — they wouldn’t blow up, as gas cars were known to do on occasion — and ease of use. Clara Ford, wife of Henry, whose Model T all but decimated the electric car, drove a 1914 Detroit Electric. (What her husband made of the fact that she wasn’t driving a Ford is lost to history.) The Detroit models could run 80 miles on a single charge, with a top speed of about 20 mph. Pokey, but this was before the age of Danica Patrick.

The thing that shocks me a bit is that Detroit models had a range of about 80 miles per charge. And how about that fancy technological advancement known as regenerative braking? Developed about 100 years ago?!

But apparently 80 miles wasn’t the max back then, far from it. Here’s more info, from DetroitElectric.org, via the GM-Volt forum:

An electric car that can go over 200 miles on a single charge? What modern day miracle is this? What if we told you that this modern day miracle is almost 100 years old? How about a plug in electric car from the early 1900’s? In 1914 a Detroit Electric went 241 miles on a single charge setting a new record! To be fair the car had a top speed of 25 MPH but that was almost 100 years ago and the new electric cars can go maybe 100 miles on a charge, on a good day, downhill, with a little breeze and a nice smooth road. In 1914 they were traveling over dirt roads or maybe at best cobblestone.

In 2012 Toyota was advertising “regenerative braking”, the Detroit Electric started using that in 1915…. The real killer for the electric car was the invention of the electric starter or at least the first working one in 1911 by Charles F. Kettering of Dayton Electric Laboratories (DELCO). It was first used in 1912 by Cadillac.


And here’s even more on the subject, from The New York Times, via the GM-Volt forum:

Well-dressed society women could simply drive to lunch, to shop, or to visit friends without fear of soiling their gloves, mussing their hair or setting their dresses on fire.

“These were women’s shopping cars,” said Mr. Leno, who is a serious hands-on collector of autos and motorcycles dating from the 1800s to the present. “There was no gas or oil, no fire, no explosions — you just sort of got in and you went. There were thousands of these in New York, from about 1905 to 1915. There were charging stations all over town, so ladies could recharge their cars while they were in the stores.”

A cleaner ride. A smoother ride. A safer ride. No oil, no grease, no gasoline. These same benefits exist again today. Got an electric?

Image: 1912 Detroit Electric via DetroitElectric.org


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About the Author

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species). He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor. He's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.



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