1889 Edison Electric Runabout

  • Brand: Edison
  • Car Code: 170630

By 1900 about 1 in 3 cars were battery powered electrics. At that time electric cars were easier to operate and more reliable than gasoline and steam cars and became very popular among women. While their range was limited, they were very suitable for in-town use. Electric cars continued to be a significant percentage of automobiles with several manufacturers until the invention of the self-starter for gasoline-powered cars in 1912. Then sales rapidly declined. By about 1920, gasoline-powered cars far outnumbered electric and steam and by the mid-1930s electric cars had virtually disappeared.

This Edison car was manufactured as a prototype by Thomas Edison about 1898-1899, the exact date being unknown. Edison was trying to develop a better battery for electric vehicles than the lead acid batteries then being used. This vehicle was used for testing and demonstrating his batteries for 15 years. Most of Edison's battery research was with Nickel Iron batteries and while they were successful for many applications, even today, they were not suitable for electric cars. Edison started the Edison Storage Battery Company in 1901 and it continued under that name unit it was sold to Exide in 1972. Nickel Iron batteries are still sometimes referred to as Edison Batteries and are used in a wide variety of applications including off-grid and renewable energy storage.

A life-long admirer of Edison, Henry Ford acquired this Runabout in 1929, just as his Edison Institute - today's The Henry Ford - was dedicated. The Edison Electric Runabout has been in The Henry Ford's collection ever since.

Descriptions & pictures by conceptcarz & Flicker & Other links

Production Start 1889
Production End 1890
Country of origin USA