Last Update: March 10, 2018
A sane and consistent development of the Electric truck for urban transportation, the field in which it is supreme, will mean the extinction of the horse and a hard fight for the gasoline truck to compete
With a growing appreciation of the service achievements and possibilities of the electric truck we are facing a new era. Henceforth we may look for a sane and consistent development with the electric truck occupying the field in which it is supreme, where its usefulness is practically unlimited and its possibilities greatest. That field is urban transportation, and the place where it is densest is in New York City.
While over half of the electric trucks of the country are being operated in the New York district, it is significant as emphasizing the economy and reliability of electrically propelled vehicles, that their use is also increasing greatly in cities like Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Detroit. Last year the increase in New York City alone was over 400 per cent, and with the vast improvements in contemplation with reference to traffic congestion and port development which must be brought about very soon, there seems to be no reason why that percentage shall not only be increased but also maintained for many years to come.
Actual service achievements are convincing the business world, slowly perhaps, but none the less surely, that the electric truck of today is a practical and economical car capable of meeting every demand of modern business. In no feature from top to bottom does it lack in any degree the essentials of adaptability, stability and strength. On such matters we have the irrefutable testimony of persons who have used electric vehicles for over twenty years and to any reasonable person such testimony must carry conviction.
When one considers that there are few cities in the country in which a large part of the freight and package transportation cannot be carried by the electric truck with great advantage to the user, the public and the power companies, the question naturally arises “Why are not more electric trucks used?"
Is it because they are inefficient?
No! Tests show them to be more efficient than the horse-drawn or gasoline-driven truck.
Is it because they do not give satisfaction?
No! Experience shows that the greatest purchasers of electric trucks are those who already have them in operation.
Is it because of excessive repairs and upkeep?
Most assuredly not, for it is just in low upkeep and insignificant repairs that the electric vehicles excel all others.
Are they unreliable?
Hardly, since the most conservative business organizations in the city including the express Companies and others to whom reliability of transportation is of very vital importance are the greatest users of electrics.
Are they intricate?
Quite the contrary ; they are so simple that a child can operate them.
Are they more expensive?
Not exactly; for while the first cost may be higher the ultimate cost taking into consideration the life and upkeep of the truck, is less than that of the gasoline truck.
Why then are not more of them used?
Because they, are not being properly sold.
Public opinion on the electric vehicle is a blank — there is none. Yet public opinion will do more than manufacturer, user or power company can do to bring about that improvement in traffic conditions and freight and package transportation which is the need of the hour, particularly in the large cities.
There are some who have doubts about the fairness of the public, and yet we have an abiding faith that once we get before the people the basic facts of this business and the inherent advantages of the electric vehicle and its capabilities they will endeavor to do the wise thing, and are very apt to do the direct and very wholesome thing. We must therefore reach the people so that a properly informed and enlightened public opinion may move in the direction of our civic well being.
And when we speak of the public, we mean the man in the street who is accustomed to deal in easy and familiar terms, and to whom facts must be presented in a form he can understand without much mental effort on his part. He recognizes the superior advantages of the electric light. He is familiar with the merits of the electric vacuum cleaner and the electric washing machine. He even appreciates that he can cook with electricity if he so desires; but when it comes to the truck, the rattle and clatter of the gasoline vehicle impress him more than the quiet reserve and staying qualities of the electric. The thing to do then is to commercialize the product and put behind it the requisite energy, force and financial support to cause the public to view the electric truck as it ought to be viewed, — an economic necessity.
Of all motor-driven trucks, those electrically-driven have proven themselves best suited in every respect to supersede horse traction in city delivery service. The speed of the electric is double or treble that of horses with equal loads. It is self-starting and is easily controlled. The vehicle has a short wheelbase so that it takes up less space than any other vehicle on the public highways and in garages. It is clean, sanitary and has no fire risks. Operating within a radium of ten miles, which embraces most of the trucking of department stores, express companies and others, with frequent stopping and starting the electric vehicle is supreme.
These are not mere conjectures, or the glorified claims of manufacturers, they are the testimony of people of experience, — of persons who know because they have used and are still using electric trucks. This is what some of them say :
We have been using electric vehicles since 1899 and find them to be the most serviceable and economical delivery cars for our line of business. — The Gorham Company.
We get much better service from electric trucks than we do from gasoline, with a reduced package delivery cost. — Bonwit Teller & Co.
The maintenance cost of the electric is easily over 50 per cent, less than the gas truck and we obtain more days of service per year from our electric trucks with greater reliability. — Hecker-Jones-Jewell Milling Co.
Electrics are more serviceable and far more efficient and economical than horses. They serve our purpose better than any other type of vehicle. — Whitlock Cordage Company.
Our experience for the past 15 years with the electric truck has convinced us that it is the most dependable and economical method of transportation. — Horn & Hardart Co.
We have been using electric vans since 1911 and have found them most dependable. For city work they are a great deal more economical than gas cars. — Manhattan Storage & Warehouse Company.
We have been using electric vehicles in our trucking service for the past five years and have obtained excellent results from them. — Bush.
The greatest single user of electric vehicles in the world is the American Railway Express Company, which has in operation in twenty-three cities 1,444 electrics. The general superintendent of motor vehicle equipment has this to say of them.
"From our experience and observation we are firmly convinced that in its particular field the electric is the most economical, reliable and efficient vehicle in operation today. This is especially true where the truck is operated in service where the hauls are short, stops frequent and freight abundant; because they are so easy to control, they are extremely simple, their action is positive while in motion and they require absolutely nothing while standing."
ELECTRIC TRUCKS PURCHASED BY AMERICAN RAILWAY EXPRESS COMPANY
Statements like these are invaluable assets of the electric, and indicate more than anything else their growing popularity and serviceability. Similar testimony can be obtained from users in other cities where after years of experience and careful detailed study, the supremacy of the electric for all city work is admitted.
It goes without saying that all of the large electric light and power companies of the country are favorably disposed toward the electric, one would hardly expect them to be otherwise considering the income derivable from battery-charging service. They are moreover rather liberal supporters and believers in electric vehicle development. Many companies maintain electric vehicle bureaus for the purpose of helping the growth of this form of transportation and rendering full and complete service. It is only recently that the power companies in New York, Newark and Chicago gave over a large part of their showroom space for electrical vehicle shows. Cooperation of this kind is very real and effective and as a result it is expected that five times as many electrical vehicle shows will be held next year.
The outlook is, therefore, most promising and especially in New York City. We have here a great city, the greatest in the Western Hemisphere with the finest harbor and with more industries than Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland and St. Louis combined. But no city in the world has so much traffic congestion, and few ports have such abominable terminal facilities. Whether you realize it or not, the fact remains that we have either got to get rid of this traffic congestion or it will get rid of us, and we have got to improve our port facilities or give up our position of shipping dominance on this continent. The cost of delivery from railroad terminals to the consumer is generally much greater than the entire freight cost from factory to terminal, because our streets are so congested with pleasure cars and slow-moving horse-drawn trucks that* rapid delivery service is out of the question. We cart through the city every year hundreds of millions of tons of freight and it is only because under the present system of freight rates the charge for terminal operations is combined with the rest of the charges for freight transportation that the great burden imposed on the public has been more or less concealed and not generally understood. Otherwise much needed improvement in terminal operating efficiency would have been stimulated and most likely considered imperative long ago.
It is not the purpose to go into the subject of freight terminals. Our existing freight stations were built many years ago and their arrangement is such as to prevent the effective application of labor-saving machinery. For that reason the hand truck still predominates and will predominate until our system of handling freight at terminals in New York is radically changed. When that time comes we shall see an almost universal use of electric tractors with or without trailers.
It is in the hauling of packages and freight through any city that the great field of the electric truck lies and that field, economically speaking, has hardly been touched. While the hauling distance is usually considered to influence the cost of a movement most, long hauls may be less expensive than short ones if the latter must be made under the adverse conditions which prevail in the heart of the business section.
The distance freight is moved is not a true measure of the operating cost, the time required to move freight a given distance is the determining factor. Therefore, conditions which increase the time required in delivering freight increase the cost and this is almost in direct proportion to the time lost. Various plans for conserving time in handling miscellaneous packages and freight have been proposed. These involve the use of standard containers or elevated platforms which keep all freight in ambulant condition, easily under power control, thereby insuring minimum time-consuming movements. By. this method alone the demand for motor equipment for cranes and for electric trucks to facilitate transportation from terminal to destination will be very large. It is not always appreciated that every time a package is lifted or delivered something is added to the cost.
Even though congestion at freight terminals is relieved and the port facilities greatly improved, the problem of street congestion still remains; because we clutter up our streets with parked pleasure cars or trucks, we back trucks in against the curb, thus impeding traffic or worse still, back them in against platforms on the sidewalk impeding not only the roadway but the walkway. Moreover, we still permit slow-moving horse-drawn trucks to retard the passage of faster moving motor trucks. Where electric trucks are used there is relatively little confusion and congestion because they are self-starting, occupy a minimum of space and possess marked ability in winding in and out of traffic, and while this is an advantage not possessed by other vehicles, the ultimate solution of the congestion problem, granting proper regulation of traffic on the streets, is to be found in some sort of contained delivery, whereby the truck will simply deposit the container with its load, presuming of course that the load is big enough and move on just as is now being done on a smaller scale with the storage battery tractors equipped with elevating platforms. In this way maximum use is made of the investment in the truck and the labor cost per ton delivered is a minimum. Now the electric is the only type of vehicle which will permit of freight movement in this way and when once such a plan is carried out thereby insuring minimum time consuming movements so far as trucking is concerned, the horse will quickly disappear from the streets and the gasoline truck will have to fight hard to maintain its existence in city delivery service.