The National Electric Transportation System That Almost Was
ON AUGUST 31, 1894, two young men rolled their new electric car onto what passed for a road in Philadelphia. It would have been hot and sticky outside, a Friday at the end of a long summer that had seen an intense heat wave suffocate the city for most of July. Piles of manure would have dotted the stones.
As the two men began their slow ride, people must have stared. Horses must have balked. It was almost undoubtedly the only car in the city. Credit for the first American electric vehicle is generally given to Boston’s Philip W. Pratt for his lithe three hundred–pound tricycle, but this new vehicle was one of the very first automobiles in the world. Even eleven years later, ...