On September 4th, 1882 Thomas Edison opened a central generating station to provide electricity to New York City, thus starting the electrical age in America. In the midst of the excitement over the new technology, dozens of electricity companies were founded. Most of these companies provided light to cities and towns that had previously been illuminated by gaslight. The storage battery had been conceived, but technological limitations made it of little practical value during the time. However, in the span of about five years from 1880 to 1885 batteries became increasingly more powerful and durable. The most excited about the potential of the battery were the automobile inventors.
The concept of the automobile had become popular throughout the 19th century, however nobody had expanded them beyond personal projects. Several modes of power were experimented with, including steam, internal combustion, and electric. In 1881, an established French coach maker by the name of Charles Jeantaud began constructing luxury, electric coaches. They became popular because of their exquisite craftsmanship and the clean, quiet, luxurious aura of the automobile. However, only a few years later came a slew of legendary German internal combustion automakers. Gottlieb Daimler created the first fuel-injected vehicle in 1885, Karl Benz with another version a year later, and Wilhelm Maybach followed suit in 1890. The 1890’s saw an influx of automotive inventiveness from all power varieties. Still, battery powered vehicles were initially far more appealing than the alternatives. People were fed up with the stench and dirtiness of horse-drawn transportation. Steam-powered vehicles were not much of an upgrade, as they smelled, poisoned the air, and were loud to boot. Internal combustion vehicles were too young in development and did not do much to improve on the nauseating local environment created by steam-powered carriages. Before the 20th century started, the public had already made its choice; they demanded electric vehicles. Go to Part 2