February 28, 2017

In March 1899, an electric car designed in the US was the talk of the motoring world. It used two motors — one for each rear wheel. The designers claimed it could travel New York to Philadelphia, a distance of more than 93 miles, and yet have enough charge left to go at full speed on a level road for four more hours.

That sounds like a lot, but remember cars in those days didn’t travel very far in one hour. Edison’s trial cars in 1902 were doing only 11.2mph. So, let’s say this car could have gone about 130 miles on a charge. For the feat, it was equipped with a new type of battery, and was to carry 50% more batteries than usual. Impressed?

Considering that the #Mahindra Reva P8 claims a range of about 87.5 miles with its air conditioner off, 130 miles is not at all bad for a car built 118 years ago.


At the same time, a company was formed in Belgium to set up and run workshops and charging stations for cars on all the important highways of Europe. These ‘motor posting stations’ were to have bars, restaurants, workshops and charging/fueling for both electric cars and petrol-driven motors. The English press of the time called the scheme ‘too grandiose’.


Indian motorcycle maker Bajaj’s attempts to market its Qute quadricycle have been stymied but Europe at the end of the 19th century was more receptive to these light four-wheelers and also motorised tricycles or trikes.

Paris was the capital of light vehicles. A visiting British journalist reported: “During one half hour there recently passed us in the Avenue de la Grande Armee 48 of these light vehicles.” Many thought the British had made a mistake “in first seeking to put upon the market the heavy and expensive carriages with Daimler engines.”

In praise of the motor-tricycle it was said: “(it) is a vehicle perfectly under control, possesses few complications and is more easily understood and readily manipulated by the novice in motor car matters than is the infinitely more complicated and heavier type of pleasure carriage.”

French vehicles made by De Dion and Bouton were highly regarded. “The De Dion motor is the best yet brought out for such vehicles is beyond contradiction.” Proof of this came from the Motor Manufacturing Company based in Coventry that started producing the De Dion motor for British cycle makers in ‘large’ numbers. How large? “One small firm assured us the other day that they had passed an order to the Motor Manufacturing Company for 10 of these motors, and also that an additional half-dozen had been ordered the following day.”



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