In the first decade of the twentieth century, there were literally hundreds of companies trying to make automobiles. And because there was no firm definition of what a car should look like, or what kind of engine it should have, those companies offered a bewildering variety of vehicles, including steamers and battery-powered cars. The victory of the gasoline-powered engine was not a foregone conclusion. Thomas Edison, for instance, had designed a battery-powered vehicle and in 1899 one sage had offered the prediction that “the whole of the United States will be sprinkled with electric charging stations.” At one point, a third of all the cars on US roads were electric powered.
From: The Wisdom of Crowds: why the many are smarter than the few, by James Surowiecki, Abacus, 2005
Time for a return to the future?
See also this interesting weblink at