Back to the Future

An advertisement for a Fritchle electric car. Via American-Automobiles.com

An electric car buzzes along the road of a downtown street, with pedestrians and fellow drivers alike stopping to stare at the wealthy owners inside. The car costs roughly 7 times more than a normal Ford, and its reputation and design has helped to fuel long wait lists and pent-up demand.

The scene could be straight out of Silicon Valley in 2013, but it’s not. For a brief period in the early 20th century in the United States, the electric car was high society’s hottest commodity, sought after by socialites and businessmen alike.

Electric cars might seem like the vehicles of the future, but they are actually a status symbol of the past.

The rise of early electric cars
During the early years of the “Automotive Age,”— from about 1896 to 1930—s many as 1,800 different car manufacturers functioned in the U.S. While innovators in Europe had been working on battery-powered vehicles since the 1830s, the first successful electric car in the U.S. made its debut in 1890 thanks to a chemist from Iowa. His six-passenger was basically an electrified wagon that hit a top speed of 14 mph.

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