The Electric Car in America, 1890-1922: A Social History
The electric vehicle seemed poised in 1900 to be a leader in automotive production. Clean, odourless, noiseless and mechanically simple, electrics rarely broke down and were easy to operate. An electric car could be started instantly from the driver’s seat; no other machine could claim that!
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- Thoroughly researched and well detailed
- Covers a lot of ground over a vast time period
- Looks at bigger picture involving social and cultural impacts
- Arguments and views not always clear
- Photograph quality poor at times
- Some strong views may put off some readers
The turn of the century was an exciting time for innovations and Kerry Seagrave’s Electric Car in America 1890-1922: A Social History explores two fascinating discoveries that headlined the era: electricity and the motor car.
In his book, Seagrave explains how different engineers and inventors tried to pioneer the electric car almost a century ago and just why the trend failed to take off during one of the most fascinating eras of a technological revolution.
Canadian author Segrave has made a career of exploring the history of different cultural phenomenon so what does his new book reveal about the world of EV’s from generations ago?
The turn of the 20th century saw many engineering projects develop rapidly so Segrave breaks everything down into 4 sections – pre-1900, 1900s, 1910s and then the 1920s. Each chapter delves into the different electric car attempts throughout each time period and also looks at the greater impacts going on in society and how it affected the fate of the electric vehicle.
The story itself is one that shows just why the world wasn’t ready for electrics and how other forms of power such as gasoline became the preferred power source for engineering firms as well and how it put the end to the early EV push.
From a technical standpoint, there is little here that readers won’t be amazed by and Segrave has clearly done a lot of research into seeing just how far some companies went to make the concept a reality. It is well written and anyone who has a passion for motoring history will find something they can enjoy.
At some points, Segrave doesn’t always stick to a linear structure when telling the story and the jumps between some time periods can force the reader to struggle to follow where some of the arguments are leading. Alongside that, some of the picture quality makes details hard to make out but this is understandable given the age of some images and the condition they were in.
Since its release, Electric Car in America has garnered mostly positive reviews with an average rating of 4/5 on Amazon. Alongside that, Choice magazine also gave it a glowing evaluation, stating that “the author skillfully connects the text of hundreds of articles to tell a detailed story of the electric car’s origins.”
Below are some of the historic images, advertisements and schematics this book offers.