As clean as battery powered cars were compared to their competitors, the storage battery was soiled with patent litigation. Everyone wanted to claim rights to a piece of the new technology. This was until French battery designer, Clement Payen, came over to America in 1887. Payen’s design was superior to all previous batteries, so much so that William Gibbs of United Gas Improvement Company incorporated a new company, the Electric Storage Battery Company, based around Payen and his battery. UGIC wanted to control the emerging battery industry with its established funds much like it had done with electrical lighting franchises. However, ESB spent most of its funds fighting off patent suits until it mustered up enough funding to buy 95 percent of the US battery market. By 1894, ESB could finally concentrate on providing storage batteries to America.
By 1994 the Electrobat was slowly being test driven on the streets of Philadelphia. Built by Pedro S. Salom and Henry Morris, a battery specialist and mechanical engineer respectively, the car weighed 4,200 bounds, with 1,600 pounds due to the lead batteries provided by ESB. The car was too heavy and cumbersome to be practical. However, within a year, Salom and Morris came out with the Electrobat II. This vehicle only weighed 1,650 pounds, with only 160 pounds of batteries. The electric car was making progress unlike anything we’ve seen in the modern age.
ESB, along with Salom and Morris, created the new enterprise, Electric Carriage and Wagon Company. Their goal was to mass produce America’s first vehicles and rent them to New Yorkers who lived near the one, planned charging station. By 1895 dozens of electric-vehicle inventors were coming out with designs of their own, including Thomas Edison himself, who was already working on an alternative to the lead battery. So Salom, Morris, and ESB had to work fast.
In early 1897, Electric Carriage and Wagon opened its first charging station on 39th street in Manhattan. Soon, electric taxi’s were shuttling patrons across the city. In early 1898, during a particularly severe snowstorm, the 14 electric taxis continued to operate when horse drawn carriages, trolleys, and buses failed. Newspapers spread the word of the marvelous new contraptions. ESB and the renamed Electric Vehicle Company caught the eye of William C. Whitney, who bought the $200 million company. Under the new leadership, production of electricity and batteries kicked into high gear, while Whitney promised 1,500 taxis for Manhattan and 15,000 vehicles nationwide. At the time, those numbers were unprecedented, as a mass production of vehicles had never been undertaken. Only bicycles had been produced in those types of numbers, so logically, Whitney turned the man who had a monopoly on the American bicycle industry, Colonel Albert Augustus Pope. Go to Part 3