At the turn of the 20th century, electric vehicles were by far the most popular means of personal transportation on the planet, and automakers like Detroit Electric were a dime a dozen. As Planetsave points out, the first car dealer in the U.S. only sold electric cars, and Ferdinand Porsche’s first vehicle design was an EV.
It once seemed like the future belonged to electric cars, but once automatic starters and cheap gasoline became prevalent, so did combustion-powered cars. But thanks to Tesla Motors, electric cars are cool again, and people are starting to come around to the idea that EVs don’t have to be bland to look at and boring to drive. And if you’re a history buff like me, it’s fun to remind people that electric cars have actually been around for a lot longer than most realize.
What better way to encapsulate just how far electric cars have come in the past century than this photo, which sees one of the oldest EVs in the world parked next to one of the newest, and arguably best EV ever built. In the 1910s Detroit Electric hit its peak production, selling as many as 2,000 cars a year. But this was the same time period where the Model T was taking off, and by the 1930s electric cars had all but disappeared from America’s highways. Detroit Electric itself has experienced something of a revival, though it has almost nothing to do with the original automaker besides the name.
But thanks to dedicated enthusiasts, a few rare examples have survived long enough to see a revival of electric cars. One day a Tesla and Detroit Electric might be side-by-side in a museum, instead of somebody’s garage.