GREENWICH, CONNECTICUT—There was not one, but two electric cars at the annual Greenwich Concours d’Elegance. The more obvious one was the Tesla Roadster. The car already has a following in Greenwich—in part because the company has been giving test rides at the local Hyatt.
The modern cars are around the edges, because the Greenwich Concours is primarily a classic car show. So the other plug-in car was a Detroit Electric circa 1917. It’s a remarkably comfortable looking car, with a particularly plush interior. Electrics were largely marketed to women in the early days, with the principal appeal being that they didn’t have to be cranked, and they were quiet and smoke-free.
The historic Detroit Electric flourished from 1907 to 1937. There isn’t much new under the sun. With rechargeable lead-acid batteries, Detroit Electrics could routinely go 80 miles on a charge. The invention of the electric self-starter (for Cadillac) and other improvements to what had been cantankerous, unpredictable gas-powered started electric cars on a terminal slide in the 1920s.
Detroit Electric is being reborn as a modern car company. It is reportedly a partnership between Zap and a Chinese enterprise, but we’ll believe it when we see it. Zap has made some announcements that haven’t come to fruition. But with or without that marque, the second electric car revolution is definitely on.