Electric Cars Are Fast: First-Ever U.S. Speeding Ticket

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1900 New England Electric vintage car

1900 New England Electric vintage car

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Speeding is big business. There's no money to be made from it as an individual of course, unless you subscribe to the theory "time is money".

But the U.S. Census Bureau estimates 100,000 Americans are ticketed for speeding every day, at an average cost of $150 per ticket--$5.5 billion a year in revenue.

There'll only ever be one "first" speeding offense though, and you might be surprised to learn that it was for an electric car.

It was also a taxi driver, which you'll be less surprised about. And a taxi driver in New York at that. "Get outta here," you shout at the computer screen, reaching for the Ritalin.

Way back on May 20, 1899, taxi driver Jacob German was caught doing a heady 12 mph down Lexington Street in Manhattan. Caught both figureatively and literally, as a bicycle-mounted police officer clocked Mr German at the illegal speed and set off in pursuit.

Today I Found Out says the limit at the time was a more sedate 8 mph, or 4 mph around corners. Perhaps, as many electric drivers today have discovered, the relative silence of electric running leads to rather higher speeds than you're expecting.

Reports seem to suggest the reckless Mr German didn't receive a paper ticket though--that honor going to a Mr Myers of Dayton, Ohio in 1904, according to Ohio History Central--and instead spent some time behind bars.

Mr German drove for the Electric Vehicle Company, which ran taxis throughout New York. In fact, electric taxis were incredibly common back in 1899--Today I Found Out also reveals that 90 percent of NYC taxis were electric back in those days.

The period holds other significance for electric cars, too. Just one year earlier the first land-speed record was set by Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat in an electric car.

We can't imagine what that police officer would have thought of Gaston's 39.24 mph speed, though...


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Comments (4)
  1. Had not the electric car companies back then just got greedy and instead made them more for the masses instead of just for the rich they might not have died.

    Even as late as 38 Ford's wife wouldn't drive anything but her electric charged from the hydro plant on a stream on their property.

    Porsche's first car was an EV IIRC

    And I now drive my EV's at 25% of the cost of similar ICE's.

  2. And Bloomberg could do the world a favor if instead of outlawing Big Gulp of soft drink he had outlawed CO2 emitters from city limits, starting with public vehicles. think of NY as the city with the cleanest air in the world. Right now that goes to Tel Aviv on Yom Kippur

  3. I love it he was busted for doing 12 mph in a 8 mph zone, school zones have higher speed limits now. Still it's sad that we let electric cars die off only to realize more than 100 years later that we need them and have to reintroduce them all over again.

  4. Great story Antony!

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