Revealed: Thomas Edison Shocks World With 1904 “Electric Automobile” Patent


In 1904, Thomas Edison shocked the world with his “Electrical Automobile” patent.

In fact, Edison held a number of patents related to the electric vehicle, including Electric Generator or Motor (1884), a Means for Propelling Electric Cars (1891), a Reversible Galvanic Battery (1900), an Electrode for Batteries (1901), an Alkaline Battery (1904), and an Electrical System for Automobiles (1912).

Edison’s patent on a Means for Propelling Electric Cars (1891) related more to trolleys than automobiles, but his general description laid the groundwork for his 1904 Electric Automobile Patent.

Here’s an excerpt from Edison’s Means for Propelling Electric Cars:

The combination of an electric motor, an armature having a driving-shaft, a sprocket-wheel thereon, one or more idle-pulleys supported by the field magnet of the motor, a sprocket-chain passing around said wheel and idle-pulleys, and a driven sprocket-wheel outside of the chain and in engagement therewith…

Edison famously stated, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Well, his Electric Automobile patent resulted in an electric vehicle that worked.  So, here we present his patent filing it in all its glory.  Note that his patent describes a vehicle that functions somewhat similar to today’s extended-range electric vehicles.

Edison’s patent was, without a doubt, ahead of its time.   Enjoy this archived relic of the past.

Categories: Concepts, General

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6 Comments on "Revealed: Thomas Edison Shocks World With 1904 “Electric Automobile” Patent"

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Unfortunately for his descendents, both Edison & his patents expired long ago. 😉

Still, I love the “Steam Powered backup” for when the batteries go dead!! That’s planning ahead!

Just imagine what the world would have been like had the EV had 10 more years of development before the oil barons got their way.

We really just need ubiquitous quick charging and a bump or two in battery range to finish off what Edison envisioned 130 years ago.

Who killed EV… Twice!

Ok, now that the patent has been revealed to be brilliant, when can we get a view of the actual concept car?

And where to I find the steam pipe to recharge it? I know, I’ll go to my local coal power plant and have them install an EVSE in the employee parking lot.. (That’s Electric Vehicle STEAM Equipment). Is that Level 4?

Unfortunately this vehicle never made it into concept form. But Edison did create a pure electric vehicle, referred to Thomas Edison’s 1912 Electric Car, of which one example exists today (the other 2 vanished at some point in time). The only photo we can located is copyrighted, but here are the specs: The 1912 electric car featured 15 two-volt batteries and a 30-volt electric motor and a top speed of 25 miles per hour, remarkable for the time. But with a price tag nearly double that of a typical gasoline-powered vehicle back then, Edison’s dream car was simply too expensive. Sound familiar?

Photo found here: