View Full Version : What if Ford went Electric vs. Gas in 1903?
11-21-2006, 09:28 PM
What if . . . .
The year is 1903 and Ford decided to mass produce an electric version of his car instead of a gas one. Most people at that time traveled few miles per journey and to build the max. of battery did not become a problem. As a result of his well developed electric automobile, all mass produced cars from that point on are now powered by battery like storage devices with electric motors.
The year is now 2006. Ford Jr. decided to unveil a new car that operates on a "new" fuel called gasoline. He begins to sell this idea to the general public after experimenting with fleet vehicles etc. People begin to ask questions about his new auto.
What do you mean, we would have to change oil every 5K if we buy this "gas" powered car? We don't have to do that with our e-cars. And we have to make sure our radiators have enough anti-freeze in it so the car does not over heat? Why, we don't even have radiators on our e-cars. And mufflers need to be replaced in order to keep the car quiet? And this gas "car" gives off odors that we can smell? Won't this effect the air we breathe? And this new fuel is a liquid that smells and is explosive? How will we be safe in this gasoline car? I mean we can charge our batteries free from solar panels. And transmissions are necessary for appropriate torque? Won't this add unnecessary weight to our cars?
Mr. Ford Jr., I am not certain why I should give up my electric car for all these other items that are surely going to cost me more money. Why shouldn't I just keep my e-car?
All kidding aside, I wonder what autos would really be like today if electric cars were mass produced back in the beginning. I do, however, really enjoy my 4 gasoline powered cars. :flag:
___Back in those times, the battery and ICE were about as reliable as one another and gasoline was probably harder to find then an outlet ;) Either way, once the gas station became prominent, the range really let the ICE take off and leave the Electric’s to the bankruptcy courts.
___Remember the saying “The more things change, the more they remain the same”? We are right back where we started but the ICE’s days are hopefully numbered for a ton of reasons ... I hope :)
11-21-2006, 11:39 PM
It does make one think.
11-22-2006, 12:09 PM
Do you really think a change is likely to take place from ICE?
___This is just one reason why I believe the ICE’s days are possibly numbered. I am speaking in terms of a much smaller proportion of our transportation mix, not completely extinct.
Electricity consumed to produce/refine a single gallon of gasoline? (http://www.cleanmpg.com/forums/showthread.php?p=16222#post16222)
11-22-2006, 01:20 PM
There were elect. cars back then.
People now days think like they did back then when it comes to electricity.
Pay the bill and dont mess with it.
My problem is charging on the road. IE filling up a EV car. go 400 to 700 miles then your dead in the water on the road? I havent heard anything on say 5 to 30 min. quick charge systems or retail recharge.
___The next gen Li-Ion’s are the type that can be fully charged in 5 minutes. Toshiba has been working on them for years but recently sold that division off to Sanyo IIRC. The A123 System Li-Ion’s are 5 minute charge capable as well.
___Where there is a profit to be made, you can bet there will be HV transformers going up at your local gas station to fill those packs ;)
___I will miss my 900 - 1,000 mile range in the Accord but that should give me 500 driving the way I do in an EV. With the electricity costing just 1/3 the cost of the gasoline, it appears to be a no-brainer … I hope :D
11-22-2006, 01:48 PM
Count me in if the infastructure appears and the batterys and cars appear. But I dont see that revloution happening in my life time.
___This is already happening in our lifetimes …
The Future of Clean Energy is Now. (http://www.evworld.com/view.cfm?section=article&archive=1&storyid=1141&first=4694&end=4693)
___This writer is not taking the current costs of a PV system into account so his conclusions are a bit off today. Tomorrow however, it is our only real answer.
11-22-2006, 03:52 PM
It's an interesting question, but really, it's not quite so simple a question if you really want to get down to it.
Starting with the supposition that Henry Ford (the old coot) decided that his mentors methods were the best way to go instead of with the oil based engine, he would've designed his working version of the quadracycle as an electric vehicle. With that, and with the help of his friends, he would've solicited investors and founded the Henry Ford Motor Company, probably much as he did.
What happened next would've happened much the same as well, as when the base model vehicle that he created didn't sell well, and he refused to follow his investors wishes to create a high luxury model to appeal to rich investors, he would've been forced out of the company, just as he was. This company, just as it did, would probably still rename itself to Cadilac, and probably would've ditched the electric vehicle.
Henry Ford, in the mean time, would decide to try to gain popularity, by gaining as many investors as possible, just as he did. However, he would've found electric engines were completely unsuitable for long distance high speed racing, which was how he proved his ideas were sound, gained popularity, and gained backers, which would've meant he would've failed, and no one would've ever had any of the advances that Henry Ford's automobiles brought to the world. Gee, too bad. Old 16 could've done it, and it did.
Okay, let's continue on. Let's suppose that he did develop some sort of revolutionary battery and won the race with his electric car. Well, this probably would've also caught the attention of R E Olds, who had also entered the race and was gaining investors to start his company, Oldsmobile, which would've probably gone electric too. With the inspiration, financial backing, and the time, let's say the Model T rolled off the assembly line at (somehow; keep in mind electric cars were far costlier at the time) the exact same price as it did. Let's even say that it had charging capacity that it could've charged safely from any outlet wherever it may be that had power. Oh... That's a problem. The staple of Model T sales were to farmers. Farmers who couldn't get electricity, most of whom would live their entire lives without it. Well, none of them would buy it. Gee, that'll slash sales. But that's Okay, there's still the city sales. Well, the ones that had easy access to power anyway; it was still hit and miss at the time for who had access to electricity. (For those curious, one of the appeals of Gasoline at the time was that it was easily stored. You could fill up multiple containers when you came across a gas station, something you couldn't do with a battery. While not every town had a gas station, every town could get you gas if you needed it; another advantage to gas at the time. In addition, most farmers had to drive 50+ miles to go to town and sell their goods; something electrics couldn't do at the time. In addition, roads weren't paved like they are now, which would've meant an even higher drain on the battery as it had to move goods and people on unpaved roads to the town centers, yet another strike against the electric horseless carriage.)
Well, let's keep going, and let's say that somehow the Model T sales didn't drastically diminish due to it's immense drawbacks of needing a power grid, and that if something went wrong, joe nobody couldn't fix it, both major selling points. And Ford still didn't fold or not exist. Well, there would've been even more pressure on the Highland Park facility when Ford made announcements about his new efficient and safe Power Generators. And when those didn't work out quite as planned, well, that would've shot the stock right to hell, wouldn't it? Instead of the minor dip it did go through.
Well, let's say the company still didn't fold, or lose popularity. 2 years later, there would've been another bump in the road. In our world, the Model T dropped in price and there was an incentive attached. If Ford sold 250,000 units that year, everyone who bought one would've recieved a $50 check. Keep in mind, at that time, that was 10% of the vehicle cost. Uh oh, problem. Ford offered this not because of mass production, but because of the profit he was making on parts, replacement parts. Well, with our shiny electric Model T, we don't have that. So, the rebate doesn't happen, Ford doesn't sell 500,000 units that year, and there's no rebate checks sent out. The Model T doesn't become the largest distrubuted product on the globe, and gain attention around the world for being such a great product and so cheap. Oh dear...
Well, let's keep going. Somehow Ford keeps trudging along without that, as we move on. Ford embraced progressisim and announced the $5 dollar day. Well, really the $2.50 day with the $2.50 day bonus; you had to be worthy of the bonus to get all of it; you could get 0, or just a dollar bonus, depending on how you lived. See, you had to not drink, show that you didn't gamble, or indulge in any vices for that matter, that you kept your house clean, that if you were single, you were looking for a spouse, if you were married that your spouse kept the house neat, that you cared for your parents, and that you were saving your money. Ford's Socialogical Department put out books on how to "behave" for your bonus, including pictures on how your house and other affairs should look. Yes, they went to your house while you were at worked, and examined to see how you were doing. There was a secret police force, the largest private police force in the world to help them out. They would decide how much of a bonus, if any you got. You start a fight at work? Lost your bonus for X amount of time, from days to years. The idea was to promote higher wages, lower turnover for such a tedius job (Turn over rates the year before was 350%), and to introduce new consumers to the market, since they could now afford cars, they better get one. Great for Ford. Well, let's say this still took place. Though, that would mean that only people whose homes had power would be interested in getting them. Perhaps Ford would start working towards supplying power to all. Or maybe they'd incent employees to have them buy supplying charging stations, or maybe even charging stations like gas stations around. Oh, but that can get costly, a cost that never occured in our universe... Oh dear.
Well, let's keep going along. The Great Depression! Gah, no one has money anymore. Well, really unemployment was only 6%, but no one had cash, which was the problem. Ford had survived without a problem by guaranteeing job security, and by using their profits from previous years to sustain them. Well, without those staple sales from parts, farmers, and other assorted folks, I think there'd be a problem. Enough to fold the mighty Ford even. After all, they lost millions that year.
Shall we go on? At this point Ford probably would've folded four times already and I'm still not to the Model A yet. While one can argue that Fords failure doesn't mean the death to the electric car industry, look again. We don't drive electric cars because all the electric car companies either converted to gas or went out of business. Oldsmobile wouldn't have faired too much better either.
Today, we're at that neat point were we can see the revenge of the electric car. Batteries have went through several leaps forward, electricity is common, and gas has become expensive.
Just saying is all. :D (What can I say, I went to school on Henry Fords Estate [University of Michigan - Dearborn campus] with a concentration on History)
11-22-2006, 04:20 PM
:flag: Neat history of what might have happened to Ford. But do you think if Ford and others spent more time and resources in developing a battery like device to hold a charge for longer periods of time and re-charging quicker that this scenario might be possible? Is it not the battery that is really holding the electric car from becoming more popular today as well as back then? :Banane49:
11-22-2006, 04:52 PM
Don't be fooled into thinking no one was working on the battery. Edison, Tesla, the company that would become Duracell, and lot's of others were constantly working towards better storage and generation. A problem that they had a very hard time solving. Tesla supposedly had an electric car, but there's a lot of myth about it
It was unlikely that Ford could've contributed anything to further the battery along that wasn't already occuring. He was already working closely with Edison, his mentor.
Now, if on the other hand, the question was, let's say it's 1930, and Edison comes forth with a far more reliable and sustainable battery pack, would Ford have used it? My answer: Without a doubt. We would've seen the rise of the electric car right then and there. Ford would've been pleased as punch; he idolized Edison, worked at an electric power plant for a good chunk of his life, and had a personal electric plant behind his house. He loved electricity. But he couldn't make it work in an automobile, had he been able to do so, he would've done so without hesitation.
With the market control at the time, I think everyone else would've followed suit, and we would've seen the death of gasoline then.
Ford just couldn't figure out how to get an electric power plant to work dependibly on a farm, but a farmer could fix an ICE with minor training, the big advantage of the ICE; and that's really his litmus test for every car.
___Nice write-up! There was a history of the EV over at EV World I read some time ago with numbers of EV companies vs. gasoline powered companies in a time line as well as the advancements that eventually killed off the EVís but I could not find it this evening :(
___I did some other research and came up with a few interesting tidbits however. The best came from the following: Some EV History. (http://www.econogics.com/ev/evhistry.htm)
Roads at the end of the 1800's and into the early 1900's were poor, often no more than cartpaths, which is why virtually all vehicles of the period shared the same high, narrow wheels of the horse-drawn vehicles which were the main users of those "roads". Without drainage or roadbeds, spring thaws or even moderate rains were enough to turn these rutted pathways into muddy sinkholes. Electric cars, with their heavy loads of batteries, were at a distinct disadvantage in these situations which required being pulled, lifted and pried out of these sinkholes.
Electricity was expensive and gasoline was cheap. At the start of the 20th century, electricity generally cost over 20 cents (U.S.) per kwh, and could be as high as 40 cents. Gasoline could be had for 5 cents a gallon. In 1999 in Canada, electricity costs 10 cents (CDN) per kwh (about 25% of its price a century ago) and gasoline is 70 cents per litre - more than $2.00 per gallon (50 times its price a century ago).
More important for the acceptance of gasoline-powered vehicles was the appearance of the required infrastructure - gasoline stations. Before 1898, finding gasoline for a car was an adventure in itself. By 1905, many general stores, carriage shops, smithies and even liveries were keeping large cans of gasoline on-hand to fuel the few gasoline cars that came by. Business in gasoline was not brisk initially, but it was lucrative - those that could afford the cars could afford to pay a premium for the gasoline. In 1905, 86% of the cars sold in the U.S. were powered by gasoline ; electric and steam held about 7% each. This is eight years before the electric starter was available on any gasoline-powered car. By 1914, half the cars in North America were Model T's, which had started production just six years earlier. By 1920, the gasoline pumps were evident throughout North America, before electrification became a national initiative in Canada or the United States, and long before the standardized and interconnected electrical grid that we take for granted today was in place. According to Chevron, they built the first gasoline station in the U.S. in 1913, which started a boom in the building of these facilities until they were ubiquitous throughout the U.S. by 1920. In 1916 alone, over 200 petroleum companies were established in the U.S., which coincides neatly with the decline of the electric car.
Electrical recharging facilities were not nearly as common. Many "service stations" would not have had access to an electrical grid at the turn of the century. Even if they did, the electric cars did not use standard voltages, which made it expensive to buy the equipment to recharge cars of different voltages.
So what did in the electric car? Most importantly, cheap and readily available gasoline as opposed to expensive electricity and a fragmented electrical generating industry and distribution network. Gasoline was effectively a waste product of the petroleum industry at the turn of the 20th century - it was often burned off at the well-head to get to the desired product - kerosene for lamps. Poor roads which put the heavier electrics at a disadvantage. Finally, the decision by Henry Ford to base the first mass-produced and priced for the masses vehicle on the gasoline engine instead of electric drive (apparently after discussions with Thomas Edison).
Today, the situation has changed: electricity is cheap relative to gasoline; the road system handles relatively heavier vehicles (e.g. 3-ton SUVs and 9-ton tractor transports) without difficulty; and smog is killing people.
11-22-2006, 08:05 PM
You sort of said the key word in the middle of all that.
*Containers*. Commonly-owned pools of bicycles work well in
places like scandinavian countries, where if you need one
you just grab it and go. Commonly-owned pools of battery
packs, aka energy containers, once a pricing structure for the
energy you get with them is established, would totally mitigate
the range and waiting-to-charge problem. You pull in, do your
five-minute or less transfer of stored energy to your vehicle,
pay for the energy that had previously been pumped into it,
and off you go. No more fears about battery replacement cost, either.
But we as a society are far too lame and uncooperative to
make that actually work.
11-23-2006, 08:40 AM
So I need to change the write-up to ..."now it is 1930." Wow, this is powerful information. Cheers!! :flag:
12-14-2006, 05:52 PM
We read a facinating book on this topic the other day-- we could not put it down (see title below). It talks about how EV cars were used in New York City btw. 1896 to approx. 1910 as taxi. Battery packs were good for about 4 hours of travel and could travel over 100 miles per charge. when the charge was gone, they went to a service station that replaced the battery with a fully charged one.
The book title is Electric and Hybrid Cars: A History
Authors: Judy Anderson & Curtis D. Anderson
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