1900 Baker Runabout

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It may surprise many people today, but at the very beginning of the 20th century, more electric cars were sold in the United States than internal combustion engine cars. This situation did not last too long, but there was a time when steam-powered cars, electric cars, and internal combustion engine cars traveled the roads of the United States. At that time electric cars were especially popular with women, because at that time there was no electric starter on internal combustion engine cars, which appeared about 15 years later on Cadillac.
The 1900 Baker Electric Runabout was the company’s first electric car. The organization for the production of cars on electric traction was created by Walter Baker and Fred White in 1899. It is noteworthy that at once two cars of this model were bought by the Great Inventor – Thomas Alva Edison. This once again confirms the demand for cars with electric motors at the very beginning of the 20th century. At that time it seemed that electric traction would be the main engine of cars of the future.
In 1902, Walter Baker put a specially prepared car on the road. The electrically-powered car was able to go up to 120km. This was slower than racing cars with internal combustion engines, but it was also a very decent performance.

Appearance and photos.

The 1900 Baker Runabout looks very similar to the gasoline powered cars of the time. I think if I saw an electric car like this, but with headphones on, I would probably think it was a vintage internal combustion engine car. But unlike the internal combustion engine cars of the time, this electric car had electric headlights.
In its first year of production, the Baker Runabout is fitted with spoked, almost bicycle-like wheels. The wheel is very narrow and the spokes are thin. At the same time there is no full-fledged tire, – a thin layer of rubber was glued on a metal rim. Later, in 1902, new wheels with thicker tires and much thicker wheel spokes appeared.

In 1901, an awning was introduced. Such equipment could partially protect from rain, snow, or wind. If you look closely, you can see small windows on the sides and at the rear of the awning. Perhaps they are designed to improve visibility. Still, at the beginning of the century the traffic was less intense than now. Although in New York and Chicago, already at that time the traffic was very saturated. Perhaps the windows were not made large with the expectation that the awning can be easily lowered. The frame for the tent is a metal frame.
Fenders are provided over the wheels, – at that time they were already the norm.

Interior and equipment.

Of course, there is no heater, air conditioner and windshield wipers, – simply because there is no windshield. There are only two seats in the cabin, which was also the norm for the time. The battery is mounted under the seat.

Engine and specifications of the 1900 Baker Electric Runaboult.

The Baker Runabout’s electric engine originally produced 0.75 horsepower. The power was transmitted to the rear wheels through a chain drive. From the very beginning, the Baker electric car was equipped with a two-speed gearbox. And from the very beginning, with such a motor, the electric car could reach a maximum speed of 20 km per hour and had a range of 40 km per hour. Mind you, the range wasn’t that small at the start of the 20th century.
In 1901, power was increased to 1 horsepower. This raised the top speed of the Baker Runaboult to 25 kilometers an hour. The range was increased to 60 kilometers per hour.
In 1902 the power was increased to 1.75 horsepower. The Baker electric car had a PTO shaft and a three-speed, mechanical gearbox. These are significant improvements, but they made the car much heavier. Because of this, the top speed has been reduced to 23 kilometers per hour.
The Baker Runabout electric car was equipped with elliptic leaf springs. Such suspension provided good smoothness on not ideal roads of that time.

Baker was quite a successful manufacturer of electric cars in the early 20th century. In the future I will write some more posts about other models of this brand. Today I tried to find information about the very first car of the brand.
Back to the beginning – it was a time when electric cars were sold more than cars with internal combustion engines. The most expensive, powerful and luxurious cars at that time were steam-powered cars. At the same time, there were many horse-drawn carriages on the roads of growing cities. It was an amazing time. I think that scientific progress was even stronger then than it is now, with cell phones and the Internet.
A little later, cars with internal combustion engines were supplanted by electric cars. Although even then they had enough range and did not require working with a crooked starter.
It seems that now the era of electric cars is coming again. For example, I’m much more interested in these first electric cars – they showed progress so well.

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