Electric Car Wins First US Auto Race 126 Years Ago Today

Zinger Key Points
  • The race was sponsored by automobile companies and held in Cranston, Rhode Island.
  • Seven cars entered the 5-mile race, including five internal combustion cars and two battery-powered cars.
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Each day, Benzinga takes a look back at a notable market-related moment that occurred on this date.

What Happened? On this day in 1896, an electric car made by Riker Electric Motor Co. won the first-ever auto race in American history.

Where The Market Was: The Dow Jones Industrial Average had just 12 component stocks at the time, and the S&P 500 would have traded at around 4.0.

What Else Was Going On In The World? In 1896, Utah became the 45th U.S. state. The University of Chicago defeated the University of Iowa in the first unofficial college basketball game by a score of 15-12. A 5-pound bag of flour cost 12.5 cents.

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The Forgotten Electric Car: The push to make electric cars mainstream has made (relatively) little progress, with only 2.5% of new U.S. car sales being EVs in 2021. Yet before the internal combustion engine became the gold standard of American automobile design, an electric car actually won what was potentially the first auto race in America.

The race was sponsored by automobile companies and held in Cranston, Rhode Island. Seven cars entered the 5-mile race, including five internal combustion cars and two battery-powered cars. The two electric cars finished in first and second place in the race, and the Riker Electric car was the victor.

Riker Electric took home a cash prize of $900 for the win. Riker Electric was merged with the Electric Vehicle Co. in 1901. At that time, Electric Vehicle Co. was the largest motor car manufacturer in the U.S. The company eventually succumbed to bankruptcy in 1907.

A year later, Ford Motor Company F introduced the gas-powered Model T and General Motors Company GM was founded.

Public domain photo via Wikimedia.

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