1900 Mobile steam car

This car was powered by steam in 1900. Photo by Hackworth.

It will come as no surprise to hear that only a tiny fraction — less than 1 percent — of cars driving along American roads are fully electric. What might be more surprising is the fact that this wasn’t always the case. In 1900, 34 percent of cars were powered by electric motors.

There are plenty of reasons Americans should have adopted electric cars long ago and we drive gas-powered cars today for a complex set of reasons, Kirsch says, but not because the internal-combustion engine is inherently better than the electric motor and battery.

Sometime you have to change infrastructure and culture to ease people into accepting a new tool by making it look and feel like the old one you want to replace. It’s this, Kirsch says, that will enable electric cars to finally succeed.