Electric and hybrid cars have been a hot topic over the past few years. General Motors introduced the Volt a few years ago, and this year introduced the Bolt, a pure electric vehicle with no gasoline engine back-up system. Indeed, just about every major automobile manufacturer, even such carmakers as the esteemed Rolls Royce and Bentley, are experimenting with electric automobiles.

But, an advertisement in the June 28, 1918, issue of the Jewish Chronicle in the Davidson Digital archives reminded me that electric cars are nothing new.

In the ad, Wm. V. F. Neumann & Sons, one of the first automobile dealers in Detroit, touted the “everyday convenience, comfort, safety, year-around utility and quiet seclusion” of the Rauch & Lang Electric, which was made in Cleveland and Massachusetts, 1905-1932. It looks just a little bit different from the GM Bolt. Maybe a little taller.

One could also buy a Detroit Electric from 1907-1939, which was, go figure, made in Detroit. And, it is interesting to note, the first vehicle in the world to go 60 miles per hour was an electric car, the La Jamais Contente, which set this land speed record in 1899 near Paris, France. But, electrics were generally considered to be “cars for the ladies.”

So, as we see more and more electric cars on the road in the future as well as cars that drive themselves, keep in mind that the fundamental technology, batteries and electric motors are more than 100 years old.

Mike Smith
Detroit Jewish News Foundation


Mike Smith
Detroit Jewish News Foundation Archivist

Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at  www.djnfoundation.org.