“On November 3, 1900, the first automobile show in the United States was held at Madison Square Garden, sponsored by the Automobile Club of America. More than 70 manufacturers put on exhibits and more than 7,000 spectators appeared on the first day of what detractors called "the horseless horse show". Source: Wikipedia.
In a poll conducted at that first National Automobile Show in New York City, visitors favored electric vehicles as their first choice, followed closely be steam.
American car companies made 1,681 steam vehicles, 1,575 electric carriages and 936 gasoline auto-buggies during that year of the first auto show.
Canada was yet to join the fledgling automobile industry, and ‘alternative transportation’ may have been a so-called Safety, a bicycle with two even-sized wheels, instead of a penny-farthing. Today again, bicycles are re-gaining favor as alternative transportation with commuters in gridlock-plagued cities like Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and many other cities everywhere.
EVs, and also hybrid-electric cars of the first decade of the 20th century out-numbered those of the 21st century by a wide margin.
In Ontario, my adopted home province, the Galt Motor Company introduced the Galt Gas Electric in 1914. A two-cylinder two-stroke engine drove a 40 Volt, 90 Amp Westinghouse generator, a pure series-hybrid electric vehicle (HEV). We can still admire the last remaining one of these in the Canadian Automotive Museum in Oshawa, Ontario, the hometown of General Motors Canada.
In 1917 the Woods Dual Power, another hybrid, car was made by a Chicago firm notable for producing electric cars. It used a four cylinder Continental engine coupled to an electric motor, but could not do better than 35 mph, or 56 km/h.
The availability of inexpensive petroleum fuels, improvements of internal combustion engines, together with the electric starter, and the advances Henry Ford brought about with the assembly line and the inexpensive Model T, caused a decline of steam and electric vehicles at about this time.
The Owen Magnetic Model 60 Touring of 1921 was a noteworthy holdout, a proper hybrid with electric motors in each of the rear wheels. A gasoline engine powered a generator to produce the necessary electrical current.
From around 1890 to 1920, there were more than 100 makers of electric cars in the U.S. and Canada, some, of course, producing no more than a handful of vehicles. The best known included the Baker Electric Company, Columbia Manufacturing, Detroit Electric, Electric Vehicle Company, Galt Motor Company, Milburn Wagon Company, Rauch & Lang, Riker Electric Motor Company of America, Studebaker, S.R. Bailey Co. and Woods Motor Company.
In these early pioneer days of the auto-industry, three forms of power-train were competing for public acceptance. Optimism ran high that storage batteries, electric ”accumulators”, would become more efficient, extending the range of the ‘silent servants’ as they were called.
Science and industry is still working on that — electricity is a difficult thing to “get a hold of”.