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Edison Invented The EV Long Before We All Went "Green"

And he was best friends with Henry Ford too

By Heidi Lux
October 22 2021

Electric cars are our future, but, in truth, the concept is very much rooted in the past. Electric vehicles were conceived so long ago, talkies had yet to be invented. And yet, contemporary society would look very different had the electric car taken off at the beginning of the automotive industry.  

The man and his car: Thomas Edison National Historic Park 

Father of the lightbulb, Thomas Edison, was an early pioneer in green energy, but back then it was probably just called, “magic.” Edison had been working on a way to turn coal directly into energy, and way back in 1884, Edison was quoted as saying"the great secret of doing away with the intermediary furnaces, boilers, steam engines, and dynamos [to produce electric power] will be found, probably within ten years.”  

Edison, who was so close with BFF Henry Ford they had vacation houses in Florida next to each other, was obsessed with finding a way to turn gas-guzzling cars into electric vehicles. Edison was an early gear head and believed that battery-powered cars would be “more economical” than gas. This battery had to be long-lasting, light, and rechargeable. Also, he dreamed all this up just four years after the first practical gas car came on the market. Had he been successful 120 years ago, it would’ve been great for our environment but terrible for the person who coined the word “smog.”  

Edison and Ford. Just two bros hanging out: Manhattan Mercury 

Unfortunately, Edison’s glamping buddy Ford would completely derail Edison’s hopes and dreams for a clean car before anyone knew the dangers of dirty cars. It took Edison 10 years to perfect his battery, but unfortunately for us all, he did it after Ford’s Model T hit the market and well before he was ready to manufacture on a large scale.  

That said, Edison’s failures might have been his own fault. When Edison was introduced to Ford in 1896, Ford showed Edison his plans for a gasoline automobile and Edison encouraged Ford to make it happen. Isn’t the first rule of business to never encourage your competition, then give him lavish gifts from your adjacent estate?  

Edison didn’t give up his dream, building three electric automobiles in 1912. Even though his cars never went into production, he was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1969.  

The course of history is fickle and can be changed by a stroke of luck. What if Edison hadn’t been introduced to Ford? What if Edison hadn’t told Ford to follow his dreams? Would the electric car have been our primary mode of transportation for the past 100 years? Would we not be in our current environmental emergency? The only way we can ever know for sure is if Elon Musk invents the time machine.  




Keywords: Thomas Edison invented electric car, electric car, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford 



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