Read this book:
His point is that the reason the internal combustion engine prevailed over electric cars in the early 1900s was due to cultural forces, not the inherent superiority of the particular technology. (This should be a truism to all of us who do our computing on Windows platforms.)
It wasn't just cultural; I've listed out the reasons before. They don't apply any more.
(1) There was no electricity in rural areas until the 1930s when FDR implemented rural electrification. So electric cars simply couldn't be used outside of town.
(2) Electricity, where it existed, was expensive. I have lost the link and it's hard to find, but electricity was *expensive* back in 1900. The price has continuously fallen in real terms.
Ah, here's a partial example. A DOLLAR per kilowatt-hour as late as 1930? I pay 11 cents now.http://institutefore...ry-electricity/
(3) Gasoline was *extremely cheap*. It was a waste byproduct of kerosene refining and was being *burned in open pits*. Even after they started deliberately refining it, it was still incredibly cheap.
I can find historical oil price charts, but these don't really capture the fact that gas was extra-cheap before the gasoline car took over in the 1910s (because kerosene was the main product):http://www.zerohedge...real-oil-prices
I can also point out the reasons the gasoline car beat out the steam car. Again, gasoline was cheap, while coal was expensive (because coal was used for *lots* of stuff at the time, and gasoline wasn't).
And the steam car took an hour to heat up in the morning.
But despite this... go look in the World Almanac of 1890 (which I did when they were deaccessioning them from the library... before I threw them out, I'm sad to say). There was a big discussion of what sort of automobile would win out. The consensus opinion was that it would be steam for the countryside and electric for the city. Gasoline was discussed but considered unlikely, as it was too unreliable. You'll see a pretty similar assessment in the 1900 World Almanac, but by then steam was declining and gasoline was gaining, and there is mention of gasoline being cheaper to operate than electric but not as nice....
The price of electricity in real terms has been slowly creeping downward over the 20th century.
The price of gasoline stayed really low through the 1950s, but then started going up.
The relative prices of electricity and gasoline for transportation crossed over in the 1970s during the Oil Crises. In the late 1980s and 1990s they were actually pretty much equivalent in price, and since then electricity has been *definitively* cheaper.
Edited by neroden, 18 April 2017 - 09:34 PM.