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.

Yes, Greenwich has been affected by the recession. It is one of the world’s hedge fund centers, and many of them have taken it on the chin. Houses that were on the market for $6 million are now $5 million and going begging. Some have been on the market for two years or more. But there’s still a lot of wealth on display on Greenwich Avenue, and at $109,000, the Tesla is not a stretch for many residents.

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.

Jim Motavalli ( @jmotavalli ) writes about cars, technology and the environmental world to anyone curious enough to ask.

In Greenwich: Electric cars, then and now
Today's EVs have roots in plug-in cars that flourished in the early days of motoring. Your grandmother may have driven one.