Sunday, March 30, 2008

Automobile Anachronists

Every time I read someone stating in a letter to the editor or on a message board that rail transit is a 19th century technology it makes me sick. We all know the first electric streetcar was run in 1888 in Richmond Virginia by Frank J Sprague. However this was behind the fuel injected automobile by 3 years. Karl Benz (Of Mercedes Benz fame) invented that in 1885.

While autos and street railways were around before these two inventions, these are the predecessors to the vehicles on both sides that we now know. So next time you hear this, please be sure to let that person know that the automobile is a 19th century technology as well. In fact, electric cars are 19th century technology yet no one has a problem trying to develop them now. In fact, the electric vehicle was the first to 65 mph just before 1900. In New York there were electric taxis before the turn of the century. Imagine that.
The market for automobiles in the US was principally divided between electric and steam. In 1899 1575 electric vehicles, 1681 steam cars and 936 gasoline cars were sold. In February of that year the Electric Vehicle Company ordered 200 vehicles and the next month announced that it would introduce electric taxi-cabs on a massive scale. The industrial and technological network under-pinning the electric vehicle industry also seemed to be strong. The producers of electric vehicles had easy access to commercially obtainable components, since they used the same motors, controllers, switches, and batteries as the the streetcars, albeit in smaller size.

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