1906 Baker Electric Car
Driven by a desire to pull away from an ever-growing demand for oil, out-of-the-box thinkers are trying to develop workable and affordable vehicles with low emissions and fueled by something other than gas. It’s surprising to learn from our technological perch that electric cars have already been explored and were ahead of their time-dating back to the late-1800s.
The first successful, U.S.-built electric car was invented in 1891. By the early 1900s, they were all the rage, outselling gasoline-powered cars. In 1899, the Baker Motor Vehicle Co. of Cleveland had its hand in manufacturing the coveted electric car.
By 1906, Baker manufactured 800 vehicles, which made it the largest electric car maker in the world. The electric car was considered a lady’s car because it started without cranking, was free of gasoline odor and toxic fumes, and it ran silently and smoothly. The Baker electric was also one of the first cars to integrate a bevel-gear system.
The Baker had a driving range of between 20 and 50 miles on one charging. Its top speed was about 20 mph. The car was best driven in the city because rough country roads could crumble the car, and the distance of rural driving could pose too big a burden for the battery. At the time, the annoyance of charging the battery was the main drawback to the Baker electric.
A 1906 Baker electric car, owned by the Hower family, resides here in Akron and is considered the city’s oldest original car. Of course, because it’s 103 years old and has been in storage for more than 90 years, the car is not in drivable condition, but it did show up (via a flatbed truck) to lead a vintage automobile parade through downtown Akron in October. In terms of antique vehicles, the Hower brothers have outdone well-known car enthusiast Jay Leno from NBC’s “Tonight Show,” who owns a 1909 Baker electric. Although, in fairness, Leno’s Baker is actually drivable.
Akron businessman M. Otis Hower, the grandfather of the current owners, reportedly bought the car in new condition from the Baker Motor Vehicle Co. Shortly after, popularity for the Baker and most electric cars fell after oil became increasingly available.
Walter Baker, a Lakewood inventor and engineer, founded the Baker Motor Vehicle Co., which later merged with fellow Cleveland car manufacturer Rauch and Lang in 1915, forming the Baker, Rauch & Lang Co. The electric car was ousted for the gasoline engine, and in 1916, the final Baker electric car was made.