Meet the Roberts electric car. Built in 1896, it gets a solid 40 miles to the charge — exactly the mileage Chevrolet advertises for the Volt, the highly touted $31,645 electric car General Motors CEO Dan Akerson called “not a step forward, but a leap forward.”
The executives at Chevrolet can rest easy for now. Since the Roberts was constructed in an age before Henry Ford’s mass production, the 115-year-old electric car is one of a kind.
But don’t let the car’s advanced age let you think it isn’t tough: Its present-day owner, who prefers not to be named, told The Daily Caller it still runs like a charm, and has even completed the roughly 60-mile London to Brighton Vintage Car Race.
If you didn’t know there are electric cars as old as the Roberts, you aren’t alone. Prior to today’s electric v. gas skirmishes, there was another battle: electric v. gas v. steam. This contest was fought in the market place, and history shows gas gave electric and steam an even more thorough whooping than Coca-Cola gave Moxie.
But while the Roberts electric car clearly lacked GPS, power steering and, yes, air bags, the distance it could achieve on a charge, when compared with its modern equivalent, provides a telling example of the slow pace of the electric car.
Driven by a tiller instead of a wheel, the Roberts car was built seven years before the Wright brothers’ first flight, 12 years before the Ford Model T, 16 years before Chevrolet was founded and 114 years before the first Chevy Volt was delivered to a customer.
As the New York Times reported September 5, “For General Motors and the Obama administration, the new Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid represents the automotive future, the culmination of decades of high-tech research financed partly with federal dollars.”
Like “green technology’s” most powerful proponent, President Barack Obama, the 1896 Roberts was made in Chicago. Obama, who supports the $7,500 tax credit for the Volt, is not fazed by its 40-mile electric limit — he only drove the car 10 feet.