How electric vehicles spread in New York and Vancouver a century ago

Electric cars were becoming popular in North America a century ago as various organisations promoted them. In 1913, it was decided to establish “an exclusive electric car garage in the city of New York”. This garage, which would have cost $10,000 per year to rent and promote, was meant to provide “mechanical and electrical service of the highest character…at reasonable prices”. It was not promoted by any one car manufacturer, and to keep the service impartial “to any particular make of electric car”, its running was to be managed by Electric Vehicle Association of America.

Further north, in Canada, electric cars were beginning to look like “active competitors to the gasoline car for first place in the public’s favour.” A Vancouver garage was luring buyers with an irresistible offer: “garaging of the electric, charging of battery, delivering and collecting (of) vehicle daily for $30 per month, thus placing at a cost of $1 per day an electric pleasure vehicle at the service of the owner.”

Electrics had built up a reputation for reliability, illustrated by this example: one of the electric trucks used by General Vehicle Company in Vancouver — “a three-ton which has been in service constantly for the last seven years” — was still serving satisfactorily.

The British Columbia Electric Company had set up charging stations for electric vehicles where it billed a maximum rate of 5 cents per unit (kilowatt-hour). Private truckers running electric vehicles had also set up their own stations. Vancouver Island alone had “eight public stations and many private ones.”

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