110th Anniversary of an Epic Cross Country EV Tour
When Oliver P. Fritchle rode his 100-Mile Electric into New York City on November 28, 1908, it was a sensation.
1,800 miles from Lincoln, Nebraska. In an electric car! How was that possible?
The New York Times published a story under the headline: FROM NEBRASKA IN ELECTRIC AUTO – O. P. Fritchle Accomplishes Long Tour in Car of His Own Make.
The newspaper proclaimed, “Mr. Fritchle’s trip served the useful purpose of establishing the fact that an electric car, capable of going no more than 100 miles average on one charging, can actually be driven across the country and can find sufficient charging stations to keep it going.”
Fritchle staged his trip to demonstrate the long distance capability and durability of the electric car and batteries that his company manufactured in Denver. He had invited all other electric vehicle manufacturers to join him for a race between Lincoln, Nebraska and New York, saying they “should hail this opportunity for proving the efficiency of electric automobiles for touring purposes.” No one accepted the challenge so he set off alone.
The electric car has proven viable as a means for making long distance trips
It took 28 days to reach New York, but only 20 of those days were spent traveling, the rest of the days he stayed at places he wanted to visit including Chicago, Pittsburgh and Gettysburg. On average he covered 90 miles a day when driving.
Fritchle told the New York Times that despite his success, he didn’t believe it was possible to have accomplished his tour through the countryside in an electric car without having the skills of an expert electrician.
In more than one town he got his batteries charged only by doing all the work himself at some lighting plant, and in one small coal mining town east of Pittsburg he won a free charging of the batteries for himself by repairing the electric plant of a nicolodeon whose proprietor saw failure staring him in the face because of his inability to operate his moving picture machines.
In Gettysburg, Fritchle charged at the power house for the electric street car system. He converted the voltage by improvising a water-rheostat using a barrel filled with water and two metal plates.
The car only needed two repairs during the trip, a new tire in Illinois and replacing the camel’s hair brake linings after descending the mountains in Pennsylvania.
In 1967, Merrill Fritchle told the Arizona Republic, “If my uncle was so far advanced with electric transportation 50 years ago, I wonder what refinements we might have today, had all the research gone toward electric propulsion, instead of gasoline.”
Indeed. The same can be said today, 110 years after Oliver P. Fritchle’s monumental journey.