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#4113426 - 06/24/21 02:01 PM The Electric Model T
Moby_Vic Offline

Cynical Idealist

Registered: 01/27/02
Posts: 62102
Loc: Central Florida

In 1914, Henry Ford announced an ambitious program to produce a battery-electric version of the Model T, but the plan quickly fell apart.

One good place to start the electric flivver saga is with the pair of 1914 Model 47 Detroit Electrics pictured above. The one on the left was purchased by Henry Ford for his wife Clara, while the one on the right was acquired by famed inventor Thomas Edison, shown here lifting the hood. (Both examples still exist, by the way.) While the gasoline automobile had asserted its supremacy over steam and electric by that time, there was still a small but solid market for electric cars, for they were dependable, utterly silent, and clean and easy to operate. Detroit was one of the more popular makes, and while its top speed was a modest 20 mph, its 80-mile range was more than adequate for the typical buyers: well-heeled, city-dwelling ladies like Mrs. Ford, who drove a succession of three electric cars over the years.

Edison’s interest in the Detroit Electric was commercial. The renowned developer of the phonograph and the electric lamp was also a proponent of the nickel-iron (NiFe) battery as a replacement for the conventional lead-acid battery, and he held several patents in that area. (Invented in France, nickel-iron batteries were commonly known as Edison cells in the USA.) Edison’s nickel-iron battery was a $600 factory option on the Detroit Electric, which had a base price of around $3100, and both the Ford and Edison cars were equipped with the extra-cost Edison batteries.

Meanwhile: As every car enthusiast surely knows, Ford was a tremendous admirer of Edison, who had encouraged Ford’s automotive experiments early on. (Ford had worked as an engineer at a Detroit powerplant of the Edison Illuminating Co. while building his first car.) By 1914, Ford had become the world’s largest automaker, and around that time Ford decided it was time to return the favor to his idol and mentor and throw the weight of his growing empire behind Edison’s efforts to promote the nickel-iron battery. Alongside the carmaker’s gasoline-powered Model T, Ford would offer an electric car powered by Edison cells. Grand plans were announced, and a large parcel of land for a factory was secured near the giant Ford plant on Woodward Avenue in Highland Park, just north of Detroit.


While the prototypes seemed to work well enough, in Ford’s view they had a fatal flaw. His development crew had been unable to get the Edison batteries to perform as required. While nickel-iron batteries have a long service life, they are slow to charge, produce less voltage per cell, and as we’ve already seen, are considerably more expensive. To move the project along, the team substituted ordinary lead-acid batteries, and at that point Ford’s patience reached its limit. Without the Edison batteries, the electric flivver no longer had any reason to exist, in Ford’s mind anyway. After a reported expenditure of $1.5 million, mainly in Edison batteries, Henry pulled the plug.

"Man cannot control the current of events. He can only float with them and steer."--Otto von Bismarck

#4113450 - 06/24/21 07:13 PM Re: The Electric Model T [Re: Moby_Vic]
GM_Guy Offline
Posting Addict

Registered: 12/17/00
Posts: 18651
Loc: London, Ontario Canada
And today, you can get your electric bicylce well beyond the 20mph top speed the Detroit had.
We're going full circle.
Box stuff in the Box forum!


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