Gasoline range anxiety 100 years ago made electric-car charging seem easy
Apr 15, 2018 John Voelcker Ht2 Robert
BMW ActiveE electric car in front of old gas pumps, Belvidere, NJ / Tom
[image] 1909 Ford Model T Touring
Electric cars have the great advantage that their batteries can be recharged
anywhere there's electricity.
It may not be particularly fast, though modern plug-in vehicles get at least
60 miles overnight, and often double or triple that.
But a century ago, drivers of gasoline cars had just as much range anxiety
as electric-car drivers—especially if they wanted to take long road trips.
Today's global network of gasoline and diesel filling stations has developed
over 100 years, but it didn't exist at the turn of the 20th century.
The energy density of gasoline allowed trips of more than 100 miles,
impossible in the mass-market battery-electric vehicles of the day.
Traveling that far in a steam car was possible, but required stocks of fuel
to be stationed along the route.
So where did drivers of the newfangled gasoline vehicles get their fuel?
[image] Petro-Canada gas station, Crossfields, Alberta, with electric-car
At first, they had to have it shipped to stops along their route—often
pharmacies, which already sold kerosene, alcohol, and other combustible
liquids. There were no gas pumps of the sort a modern driver would
Instead, the driver filled the car with a hand pump, usually at the curb,
that pumped gasoline into the car's gas tank from a metal storage tank at
whichever roadside business was willing to take delivery of the highly
Those hand pumps began to appear in 1907, just a few years after the turn of
the century—at a time when the U.S. car market was split among electric
cars, steam cars, and gasoline cars.
Buyers viewed electric cars as the most refined (and the only ones suitable
for women to drive), though they were limited by their range (less than 50
miles) and long recharging times.
Steam cars were smooth and powerful, but it took 30 to 45 minutes for the
boiler to produce sufficient steam pressure to drive the car after the fuel
Gasoline cars were the crudest, loudest, and smelliest, but the long range
provided by the energy density of liquid hydrocarbons worked in their favor.
[image] 1912 Cadillac Touring Edition
Then Charles Kettering's electric self-starter, introduced by Cadillac in
1912, made gasoline cars practical for everyone. The battery-powered motors
that turned over engines until they fired replaced hand cranks that could
break the thumbs, wrists, or arms of the drivers using them if they kicked
From 1900 through the 1920s, drivers simply carried multiple 5-gallon cans
of gasoline on their cars—often strapped to the running boards—to ensure
they could cover the necessary distances.
That fact comes from a paywalled article in The Wall Street Journal.cited in
a post six years ago on Kate Kelly's "America Comes Alive" website.
Kelly notes, again from the Journal, that gasoline was also carried as a
side business on some of the trucks that delivered home heating oil to
But the motorists of 100 years ago still had to plan their trips carefully;
the growth of a nationwide network of regularly spaced fueling stations
would take place from 1915 through 1930.
The first modern gas station opened in Pennsylvania in 1913, and what came
to be called "service stations" had more than gas pumps: They sold oil,
tires, starter batteries, and offered repairs and service to locals and
By 1920, a post on the University of Houston's "Engines of Our Ingenuity"
site notes America had 15,000 gas stations, plus half that number of
A decade later, that number was more than 100,000—and the curbside pumps
were all but extinct. By 1970, the U.S. had more than 200,000 gas stations.
There are now slightly more than 100,000, though stations have expanded from
two or three pumps to a dozen or more pumps. Meanwhile, they no longer make
money selling fuel.
Customer purchases of sugary sodas, salty snack foods, beer, cigarettes, and
lottery tickets are today's business model.
That said, drivers no longer have to plan ahead to ship fuel to businesses
along their routes.
Kia developed a wireless charging system for the Soul EV electric ...
Apr. 11th 2018 The driver simply parks the car above the transmitter to
begin charging and then energy is sent through an inductive coupling to an
electrical device, which uses that energy to charge the electric vehicles'
battery. The system is so efficient it will allow some misalignment between
the transmitter and the receiver, making it ...
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