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"The idea I want to push next is that the United States should make Siberia a Protectorate. Pay the Russians off – a hundred, two hundred billion dollars – and simply run Siberia in an ecologically responsible way."
- Gregory Benford

Electric Phaetons (Electric Cars)  
  Vehicles whose motive power is entirely derived from electricity.  

Science fiction writers were not the first to think of (or make!) electric cars; see the discussion below.

"Another change that came in with a rush upon the discovery of a battery with insignificant weight, compact form, and great capacity, was the substitution of electricity for animal power for the movement of all vehicles. This, of necessity brought in good roads, the results obtainable on such being so much greater than on bad ones that a universal demand for them arose. This was in a sense cumulative, since the better the streets and roads became, the greater the inducement to have an electric carriage. The work of opening up the country far and near, by straightening and improving existing roads, and laying out new ones that combine the solidity of the Appian Way with the smoothness of modern asphalt, was largely done by convicts, working under the direction of State and Government engineers. Every State contained a horde of these unprofitable boarders, who, as they formerly worked, interfered with honest labour, and when idle got into trouble. City streets had been paved by the municipality; country roads attended to by the farmers, usually very unscientifically. Here was a field in which convict labour would not compete, and an important work could be done. When once this was made the law, every year showed improvement, while the convicts had useful and healthful occupation.

"The electric phaetons, as those for high speed are called, have three and four wheels, and weigh, including battery and motor, five hundred to four thousand pounds. With hollow but immensely strong galvanically treated aluminum frames and pneumatic or cushion tires, they run at thirty-five and forty miles an hour on country roads, and attain a speed over forty on city streets, and can maintain this rate without recharging for several days. They can therefore roam over the roads of the entire hemisphere, from the fertile valley of the Peace and grey shores of Hudson Bay, to beautiful Lake Nicaragua, the River Plate, and Patagonia, improving man by bringing him close to Nature, while they combine the sensations of coasting with the interest of seeing the country well.

"To recharge the batteries, which can be done in almost every town and village, two copper pins attached to insulated copper wires are shoved into smooth-bored holes....

"We are freed from the rattling granite pavement of only a century ago, which made the occupant of an omnibus feel like a fly inside of a drum; from the domination of our local politics by ignorant foreigners; and from country roads that either filled the eyes, lungs, and hair of the unfortunates travelling upon them with dust, or, resembling ploughed and fertilized fields, saturated and plastered them with mud. These miseries, together with sea-sickness in ocean travelling, are forever passed, and we feel that `Excelsior!' is indeed our motto.

From A Journey In Other Worlds, by John Jacob Astor IV.
Published by Unknown in 1894
Additional resources -

In 1828, Ányos Jedlik, a Hungarian, created a tiny model car powered by an electric motor of his own invention. In 1834, a Vermont blacksmith named Thomas Davenport installed his newly created DC motor in a small model car which ran on a short circular electrified track. Electric vehicles (with 2,3 and 4 wheels) were in wide use in Europe in the late 19th century.

In the early part of the 20th century, electric vehicles enjoyed considerable popularity in larger cities, where the limited battery life (and thus available mileage) was offset by the advantages of clean, quite operation.

It was these advantages over the smelly, noisy automobile that gave science fiction writers like Astor a reason to create utopian transportation systems that idealized the electric car.

Comment/Join this discussion ( 1 ) | RSS/XML | Blog This |

Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from A Journey In Other Worlds
  More Ideas and Technology by John Jacob Astor IV
  Tech news articles related to A Journey In Other Worlds
  Tech news articles related to works by John Jacob Astor IV

Electric Phaetons (Electric Cars)-related news articles:
  - MIT Battery Research To Enable 'Electric Phaetons'
  - Aptera Electric Vehicle So Cool It's On Star Trek
  - Tesla Model S Not Your Grandfather's Electric Phaeton
  - Tesla Model S Declared Car Of The Year By Motor Trend

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Toyota's Camatte Has William Gibson's Digital Hood

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