How Henry Ford And Thomas Edison Killed The Electric Car

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How Henry Ford And Thomas Killed The Electric Car

The electric car is new. Ninety years Henry Ford and Thomas two of America’s greatest innovators, building one and failed. Daniel of Hemmings Blog tells us how killed the electric car.

That Henry Ford and Edison became good later in their lives is known. They camped they presented each with lavish gifts, owned houses immediately to each other. Many enthusiasts also know at the time Ford first his Quadricycle on the streets of Detroit in he was working for Edison at the Detroit Illuminating Company.

They know that a couple later, when Ford was to Edison and showed Edison his for a gasoline automobile, Edison him to pursue those plans.

Edison and Ford later put minds together to conceive a electric car is not so well known.

At the same time Ford his eponymous automobile company, had made inroads into technology and began offering storage batteries for several among them automobiles. His plans that same to convert four large cars from gasoline to power (using his own batteries, of reeks of a publicity stunt to his new batteries, but it was enough to get him listed in the Catalog. And though he prodded off into production of gasoline by 1903 he was denouncing them.

is the thing. There are no whirring and gears with their levers to confuse. There is not almost terrifying uncertain and whirr of the powerful combustion

There is no water circulating to get out of order – no dangerous and evil-smelling and no noise.

Ford, however, high on Edison’s encouragement often quoted as saying Edison was the greatest man in the world,

so he probably have jumped off a if Thomas Alva told him not only rigorously pursued the car and left Detroit Edison to his own automobile company, he also the development of a flywheel magneto for the Model T specifically to avoid batteries. (One story read, possibly apocryphal, is during one of Henry Ford’s trips, the battery in a pre-production T overturned, cutting the trip and causing Ford to ban batteries his new low-priced car.)

Just five years later, began to change his mind. In 1914, word had gotten that work had started on a electric car. Reports in the Wall Street Journal . in the magazines, and in other newspapers as far as New Zealand regarding Ford’s into electric cars. himself even confirmed the in the January 11, 1914 issue of the New Times :

Within a year, I we shall begin the manufacture of an automobile. I don’t like to about things which are a ahead, but I am willing to tell you of my plans.

The fact is that Mr. Edison and I been working for some on an electric automobile which be cheap and practicable. Cars been built for experimental and we are satisfied now that the way is clear to The problem so far has been to build a battery of light weight would operate for long without recharging.

Mr. Edison has experimenting with such a for some time.

Ford may fibbed a little by saying multiple experimental cars been built, but we know for a that at least one experimental electric was built in 1913, as above out in front of Ford’s park plant. It was a tiller-steered car an unusually swoopy frame and a of batteries under the seat. The man it, Fred Allison, was an electrical from Detroit who was tasked designing the car’s motor.

to Ford Richardson Bryan, in his book, Friends, families, scenes from the life and of Henry Ford . the car’s system and overall design handed to Alexander Churchward, at time the vice president of Davis, while general duties were assigned to Wilson, a former Cadillac A year earlier, Churchward had a paper on the standardization of the electric car (in he argued for a 25-mph maximum for all electric vehicles), while had experience with Cadillac’s program.

Work continued 1914, as we can see from Allison atop the second experimental car, this one using a T frame, suspension and front a Model T steering wheel, and a rear axle. The latter that the motor, mounted the driver in the prior car, up front in the second car, the additional bank of batteries. that worm-drive rear Ford Richardson Bryan again fills us in, noting in his Henry’s Lieutenants ,

that Eugene Farkas was not only for the worm-drive rear that was later modified for use in the he was also responsible for the entire of the electric car.

Rumors in the automotive press for the remainder of stoked by Henry Ford’s Ernest Liebold. Edsel was said to have been put in of the Edison-Ford. Henry Ford was to have bought an electricity-generating in Niagara Falls, as well as a off Woodward Avenue specifically for the of the Edison-Ford. As the year wore on, the pegged the release of the electric car for then 1916. Details on the car It would cost somewhere $500 and $750, and it would somewhere between 50 miles and 100 on a charge.

Even today, vary as to whether the car would a brougham or cabriolet body atop its chassis. Edison in an interview with Automobile in May 1914, divulged no details and his best It’s coming, be patient speech, the kind GM has perfected in recent years the Volt:

He called attention to the that a new automobile, especially one such radical features as a or $750 electric pleasure car must have, cannot be and constructed in a few weeks.

Mr. Henry Ford is making for the tools, special machinery, buildings and equipment for the production of new electric. There is so much work to be done that no can be fixed now as to when the new electric can be put on the But Mr.

Ford is working steadily on the and he knows his business so it will not be

I believe that ultimately the motor will be universally for trucking in all large cities, and the electric automobile will be the carriage of the future. All trucking come to electricity. I am convinced it will not be long before all the in New York City will be

Edison, by the way, was himself no to electric cars. Bryan in Friends, Families and Forays Edison built a battery-powered electric in 1895, and he’s as owning a few of the very expensive cars then in production.

so far seen no evidence that the of the day ever got its hands on a photo or any evidence of the two electric experimentals Ford had built, and eventually, the seemed to forget about the altogether. Some conspiracy believe the oil cartels got to Ford and and caused them to abandon the they offer as evidence the fire that nearly Edison’s workshops in West New Jersey, in December 1914. the fact that all work on the took place in Dearborn the fact that Edison got back on the horse and had his whole rebuilt by the next spring), we see in the coverage of the fire in the December 10, issue of the New York Times the fire skirted the two buildings in any work on the electric car would taken place.

It was seen that the only buildings that could be were the experimental laboratory and the building, and all attention was given to

Mr. Edison was in the experimental laboratory the fire began. He helped in the work, and when that was he went to the storage battery and directed the protection of that

Rather, as Bryan wrote, the of the Edison-Ford electric car came because Ford demanded the use of nickel-iron batteries in the car, and have no other battery this car. Edison’s however, were found to very high internal and were thus incapable of an electric car under many Heavier lead-acid batteries would have made the car too were substituted behind Ford’s back, and when he out, he went ballistic.

The quickly fell to the wayside other projects demanding Ford’s time. According to The Century . Ford invested million in the electric-car project and bought 100,000 batteries Edison before the project apart.

Alexander Churchward had already racked up dozens of and would be issued dozens went back to a successful at Gray Davis and also, for a served as vice president of the Starter Company, the same that later employed as chief engineer. Of the patents to Allison that we’ve one (1,225,558. dated May 8, 1917) was to the A.B.C.


Starter Company, while the two (1,478,196. dated December 18, and 1,508,377. dated September 16, were assigned to Ford Company, so Allison very may have leveraged his experience the electric car to a career at Ford. men were instrumental in Ford’s adoption of the electric self-starter and lighting systems in 1919.

As a note, Ford recently that it plans to invest million into electric-car Here’s hoping, Henry.

Motor News strives to the experience of the collector-car enthusiast by high-quality magazines and offering one of the comprehensive classic-car classifieds in the Daniel Strohl is an associate with the company.

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