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If you think electric cars are a new idea,
read on. I saw this article, "The Amazing Collection in Thomas Edison's Garage,"
on another website (the equivalent of
Jay Leno's Garage from a century ago) and thought it was a special
report, but then I noticed it was actually a paid promotion. So, I contacted the
company, B.R. Howard & Associates, Inc.,
asking for permission to re-post it in its entirety on RF Cafe. They kindly agreed
to it. Per their mission statement: "Our company focuses on the conservation of
historic artifacts in accordance with the principles defined in the American Institute
for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works Code of Ethics and Guidelines for
Practice." Their portfolio of projects include transportation, industrial, scientific,
military, and archeological artifacts. An opportunity to help support the preservation
effort is provided.
PBS has a
web page outlining the history of electric cars which, according to them, first
arrived in the early 1800s when Scottish inventor Robert Anderson built the first
crude electric carriage powered by non-rechargeable primary cells.
Wikipedia sources claim that in the early 1900s, electric cars were preferred
by women drivers because they did not have a motor to crank over by hand (1912 Detroit
Electric photo). Interestingly, but not surprisingly, PBS and Wikipedia do not agree
entirely on the timeline.
Today, the electric car seems like a newly popularized and emerging technology,
even a thing of the future.
But did you know that as early as 1900, electricity-powered vehicles accounted
for about one-third of cars found on the roads of major metropolitan cities
in the United States?
even in the late 19th and early 20th Century, scientists were
having difficulty developing a reliable, rechargeable car battery. Lead-acid batteries
were very heavy, and the components often acted against one another (the acid corroded
Thomas Edison set his sights on improving the battery, thereby creating a better
electric vehicle. He wanted to make the battery lighter, more powerful, rechargeable
– a reliable and lasting source of energy for the popular but still technically-challenged
Edison’s battery made great strides, and today, the fruits of his labor and experiments,
as well as his impressive collection of electric and gas-powered vehicles (dating
from 1900-1914) still reside in a stately laboratory-garage on the inventor’s estate
in West Orange, NJ. In addition to the vehicles, the structure houses his machine
shop, an electric charging station, a revolving overhead washing system, and a gasoline
Unfortunately, the vehicles and equipment
in the garage have been sitting untouched for a long period time, and are covered
in grease and lubricants, which have attracted large amounts of dirt and dust. Due
to its state, the garage and its impressive artifacts are currently inaccessible
to the general public.
Edison's estate is part of the National Parks
Service, and the extent to which the government can fund a project like this one
is limited. In the past, Federal funds and other grants were available for historical
preservation projects like this one. But with recent budget cuts, many of these
programs have been eliminated.
Fortunately, the conservation and preservation experts at
BR Howard & Associates, Inc. are working
with the estate to restore this site and its vehicles and relics to their previous
glory, and make the structure available to the public. But they cannot do it alone.
Edison’s ideas and inventions continue to influence the technology and auto world
every day. Scientists still struggle with the same problems that Edison faced over
100 years ago, and the future of the electric vehicle still depends on new innovations
rising up around the same issues. Yet we will not be able to access and explore
these vast units of the inventor’s great collection, and go behind the scenes of
history until the goals of this project have been completed.
You are invited to join us. Please partner to save our history, one invention, one
idea, one garage at a time.
Visit the BH Howard &
Associates website to donate to the Edison Electric Vehicles project, and to
view some of the artifacts they have already preserved as well as the current projects
that are looking for assistance.
Posted August 4, 2020(original