Today, California is generally accepted as the hub for electric car activity.

Not only are high-profile electric car companies like Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] based there, but healthy incentives and clement weather make owning an electric car in the Golden State about as easy as anywhere else in the world.

It hasn't always been that way though. A hundred years ago, Chicago, Washington, DC and Detroit were similar electric hubs--and Washington had more electric cars in 1913 than it has today.

The Electric Vehicle Association of Greater Washington, DC (EVADC) unearthed a November 1913 article in the Washington Post, noting that 756 "electric pleasure cars" were in use in Washington.

Washington was believed to be the cheapest place in the U.S. to charge electric cars, and four dealerships sold the cars--Baker, Detroit Electric, Ohio Electric and Rauch & Lang. What's more, the city's paved streets, social life and moderate climate all made driving an electric car a pleasant experience.

Fast forward just under a hundred years to June 2012, and 497 electric vehicles were registered in the Washington metropolitan area.

Not that California wasn't fond of electric vehicles back then either.

1913's other electric car centers, ranking above DC, were Denver and Detroit on 800 vehicles each, Los Angeles on 1,000, and Chicago with an impressive 2,500 electric cars.

Today, the numbers are rather higher in total. The California Center for Sustainable Energy keeps details of the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project--an interactive map keeping track of how many Californians have made use of the state's plug-in rebates.

At time of writing, that number was over 23,500. Predictably, Los Angeles and the Bay Area are the two main centers for electric cars in the state.

California may be today's center for electric cars, but it seems their popularity was once spread right around the country. But we don't think it'll be too long before modern-day Washington tops its total from 100 years ago.

[Hat tip: Brian Henderson]


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