Originally published on EV Obsession.
Most of those reading this are probably already aware that electric vehicles were actually quite popular back at the beginning of the 20th century, near the dawn of the automotive industry. The extent of this popularity is perhaps a bit hard to imagine for many, though, owing to the modern ubiquity of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.
I recently saw a post on reddit that might help in that regard — one featuring an image of an electric vehicle (EV) charging station map of Manhattan dating back to 1923. I’m actually a bit surprised at how comprehensive the charging network was at the time — though, granted, the island was much less densely populated at the time, so finding locations to place stations was probably a much simpler affair.
A commenter by the name of “graneflatsis” posted an interesting excerpt from a Wikipedia page on the subject that seems worth posting here:
Acceptance of electric cars was initially hampered by a lack of power infrastructure, but by 1912, many homes were wired for electricity, enabling a surge in the popularity of the cars. At the turn of the century, 40 percent of American automobiles were powered by steam, 38 percent by electricity, and 22 percent by gasoline. 33,842 electric cars were registered in the United States, and America became the country where electric cars had gained the most acceptance. Most early electric vehicles were massive, ornate carriages designed for the upper-class customers that made them popular. They featured luxurious interiors and were replete with expensive materials. Sales of electric cars peaked in the early 1910s.
I wonder how long until EVs hit their second peak? I guess that probably depends to a large degree on how rapidly we start experiencing major effects from anthropogenic climate change (the destruction of deep water seaports, extreme water scarcity in some regions, mass migration on a scale not seen in recent times, falling agricultural yields, etc).
(Thanks to “Pluginsights” for posting the map on reddit.)