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Touring Mount Rainier in an Electric Car — ca. 1920

Submitted by on July 19, 2011 – 9:20 am8 Comments

Electric Car in 1920

Electric Car in 1920

Think electric cars are something modern? Your wrong. This car on a tour to Mt. Rainier around 1920 was all electric.

Enlarge this photo and you’ll see the sign on the car reads Detroit Electric an electric automobile produced by Anderson Electric Car Company between 1907 and 1939. It was said to got 80 miles between battery charges.

The car was sold mainly to women and physicians who didn’t want to hand crank a car — a requirement with early internal combustion engines.

Detroit Electric was revived in 2008.

Photo courtesy of Gary Henricksen.

Click on photo to enlarge.


  • David Beane says:

    I can see the extension cord !! HAAAA :<))

    • dimettler says:

      I think they only went about 20 miles per hour. Imagine what things would be like if they’d gone that direction instead of the combustion engine. Weird to even imagine.

      • David Beane says:

        we would probably be buying batteries from the middle east instead of oil !! The big corporations would be controlling the electric companies and battery production, instead of the oil companies. The pollution could be worse because of all the coal run generators to create all the extra electricity we would need. There could be no salmon, because of the extra hydo-electric dams being built.And then there are all the more nuke plants to deal with !! No matter what source of energy we use, there will always be human greed, and a strain on the enviroment one way or another !!

        • dimettler says:

          Yeah, there is always greed, but I would hope they would have tried to make money trying to make a better battery. Have you tried the new Mac Air, that battery lasts forever. And they could have moved on to serious solar power to recharge. In any event, they would be 80 years ahead of where they are now. 🙂

          • David Beane says:

            I didn’t mean to sound like a downer. You are right, it would have been interesting to see how developed the battery powered world would be if they had started research way back then.

  • Steven Lough says:

    Dear Eatonville to Rainier:

    This is a great picture. We have added it to our extensive library of electric car pictures past, present, and future, which we use in our teaching and lecturing.

    We have been active in Educating, Demonstrating, and Proliferating the use of Electric Vehicles here in Seattle for over 30 years. Our
    Seattle EV Association Chapter of the national Electric Auto Association is now the largest in the United States.

    Most folks do not realize that in the early 1900’s EV’s and Gas cars were neck and neck.

    Now with modern batteries, and all the other advances in automotive engineering, we may be able to recreate this trip to Rainier. Some of our members have already driven their EV’s all the way from the Seattle area to Ellensburg to the Wind Farms to recharge for the return trip using clean wind power.

    Now all we have to do is keep pushing for more US Made batteries and cars..

    Steve Lough
    Seattle EV Association (

  • Paul Kahle says:

    Actually, as a result of abandoning electric cars for gasoline, we stalled any development of battery technology. We continue to use the same Lead-Acid batteries that the car in this picture used even to this day. And the 80 mile range this car had is still pretty good for an Electric Vehicle (EV) today. It’s only in the last few years we have started to look at EVs seriously again and the strides we have made in battery technology have been astounding. Imagine were we could have been if we had not ignored it for 80 years…

    And don’t get too pessimistic about electrical generation. The cars don’t care where the electricity comes from. There are a lot more ways to generate electricity than there are to create gasoline. We can build wind farms or coal fired plants. Our choice. And we can even change our minds and switch from one to the other. EVs make all that possible.

    I drive a Nissan Leaf today. Maybe it’s time to take it on a trip around Mt Rainier? Wonder were they recharged back in the day?

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