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Green Car: 1918 Detroit Model 75

Classics  /   /  By Bradley Berman

The Detroit Electric automobile company produced about 14,000 pure electric vehicles during its 32-year run from 1907 to 1939. This Model 75, made in 1918, is one of only several hundred still on the road today.

In 1918, when this Model 75 was produced, electric vehicles were already going the way of the horse. The self-starter for gas-powered cars had been introduced five years earlier, in 1913. Before the self-starter, gas-powered cars didn’t sell as well because they were hard to crank-start. (That’s probably where we get the word “cranky.) By contrast, EVs in those days, just like today, started up silently and with little effort. Ease of operation is what made electric cars of the era especially appealing to women drivers.

In fact, electric car interiors were designed to appeal to the female demographic. Check out the interior photo on this model. EVs of the era featured the styling of Victorian-era sitting parlors. Another selling point was its use of curved window glass, reportedly the first vehicle to feature such refinement in a production automobile.

The driver controlled the car with a relatively confusing set of controls: a steering tiller (rather than a steering wheel); a lever to manage speed; and individual pedals for reversing, braking, and cutting off power from the motor.

The top speed of the Model 75 is 25 miles per hour. By the way, that’s 100 miles less than the top speed of 2012 Tesla Model S. (There have been considerable improvements in battery and motor technology in the past century.) Acceleration for the 1915 EV, according to several web reports, is from zero to 23 miles per hour in 30 seconds, if going down hill.

The leisurely pace allows this collectible electric car to travel 50 miles or more on a single charge. Be advised that while the 1915 Detroit Electric has its original paint and other equipment, it needs a new set of batteries.

Still, at the starting bid of $35,000, it could be quite a deal for the right collector. In August 2012, RM Sales of St. John’s Michigan, sold a similar 1918 Model 75 for $44,000.

Click the link to follow the bidding for this eBay listing: 1918 Detroit Model 75

For more information about electric cars, visit eBay’s Green Driving Center.

About the Author

Bradley Berman is a leading writer and researcher about electric cars and green transportation. He regularly contributes driving reviews and technology articles to The New York Times, Fortune, MIT Technology Review, Popular Mechanics, and other publications.

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