The history of the automobile is rich and interesting, and there is no better place to learn about it than at the Petersen Auto Museum.
Starting on the 20th of November, 2019, the Petersen Auto Museum rolled out a new exhibit that focuses on the history of the electric vehicle. The title of the exhibit is Alternating Currents: The Fall and Rise of the Electric Vehicle, and here you’ll find a number of different electric vehicles from different periods in history.
“Electric powered vehicles represent the future of the automotive industry,” according to Terry L. Karges, the Executive Director at the Petersen Auto Museum. He believes that it’s important to chronicle the history of alternatively-powered vehicles to help inform individuals about the potential of electrical travel.
The exhibit, which opened at the same time as the Building an Electric Future and Shifting Paradigms exhibits, seems to paint a picture of the direction that Petersen hopes that automotive industry will take.
History of the Electric Vehicle
The history of the electric vehicle could be traced back as far as 1839, when Scottish inventor Robert Anderson first used an electric motor to drive a carriage. Of course, this idea was a bit ahead of its time and failed to catch on. Nonetheless, it sparked the curiosity and imaginations of other inventors.
It wasn’t until 1900 that the automobile industry had begun to develop enough for the first practical electric car to be produced. This vehicle was developed by William Morrison, and although the car couldn’t drive far and required a great deal of time to recharge, it proved that electrical vehicular travel was a possibility.
Over the next century, a number of different vehicles were developed and produced to run either on electricity or as a hybrid combining electricity and petroleum. It wasn’t until 1997, with the release of the hybrid Toyota Prius, that electric cars really became a practical solution for everyday drivers.
The last two decades have seen the release of fully-electric vehicles such as the Tesla. Now that research is beginning to recognize that some of the inherent faults of the internal combustion engine (carbon emissions, increasing fuel costs, etc.) can be offset by using electrical vehicles, the market for rechargeable cars is continuing to grow.
Electric Vehicles on Display at Petersen Auto Museum
In total, there are 13 different electric vehicles on display at the Alternating Currents exhibit. These vehicles were developed over the course of more than a century, and include classics like the early 1915 Detroit Electric car and contemporary vehicles like the recent 2020 ElectraMeccanica Solo.
These are some of the key vehicles currently on display.
1915 Detroit Electric
The production of the Detroit Electric vehicle first began in 1907. The vehicle was powered using a rechargeable lead-acid battery, and was reported to be able to travel 80 miles before needing to be charged.
The top speed of the vehicle was close to 20 miles per hour, which was fairly standard for the time period. Nowadays, many of the still-functioning Detroit Electric vehicles which are privately owned can be difficult to license and operate.
Due to their low top speed, many countries refuse to insure or license these vehicles for driving. And, due to modern car batteries being designed differently, it can be difficult to actually get the vehicles driving at their top speed unless they are moving downhill.
As such, your best chance to see one of these vehicles would be at the Petersen Auto Museum.
1960 Electric Shopper
The 1960 Electric Shopper was an electric microcar designed by the Electric Car Company of California, which was opened in 1951. The company produced three lines of cars: pleasure cars, industrial cars, and the Electrical Golfer line.
The pleasure cars were sold under the name Electric Shopper, denoting their intended use as vehicles that could help urban consumers run errands and do shopping.
The 1960 redesign of the Electric Shopper was unveiled under the leadership of the company’s new president, Byron t. Cline. The design of the vehicle was called by the Electric Car Company a “dramatic departure from the Electric Car design as you have known it.”
The car was powered by a 24-volt DC Series Electric Motor and drove with 1.5 horsepower. It had a range between 30 and 35 miles per charge.
1962 Henney Kilowatt
The 1962 Henney Kilowatt was a car that used many of the same body parts that were used for making the Renault Dauphine. The top speed that this car could reach was 60 miles per hour, and very few are known to still exist.
The Henney Kilowatt is significant because it is often called the world’s first mass-produced electric car, though this is not necessarily true. While electric cars sold quite well in the first years of the 20th century, the Henney Kilowatt marked the end of a long period during which electric cars had been quite unpopular.
2017 Bollinger Motors B1
Bollinger Motors is a relatively new American electric vehicle startup. The Bollinger B1 is an all-electric sports utility truck with 200 miles of range.
The development of the Bollinger B1 has proven that electric vehicles don’t need to be used solely within the confines of cities and on connecting roads. This truck was developed to meet the needs of on-and-off-road hauling, and with 360 horsepower, it can certainly hold its own.
2020 Electra Meccanica SOLO
Vancouver vehicle makers ElectraMeccanica have promised to unleash their newest model, the SOLO electric vehicle, onto the streets of Los Angeles this year.
One of the main selling features of the all-electric vehicle is its price. A SOLO will run you about $16,250, which is nearly half the price of a Tesla. It’s believed by many that the SOLO will take over the EV market on the West Coast.
The SOLO is a single-person vehicle and was inspired by the Corbin Sparrow. One of the main focuses in the development of this vehicle is to provide a great deal of driver comfort. The seat is specially designed, the stereo system is enhanced and features Bluetooth capabilities, and there is noise-reduction technology in the driver’s cabin.