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L.A.'s First Electric Car

Earle C. Anthony and Automobile, Los Angeles, Circa 1897

The young Earle C. Anthony on his home-built automobile, circa 1897, believed to be outside his home in Los Angeles.

Long before the introduction of the Tesla automobile and sometime during 1897, the same year that the "Erie-Sturgis" made its first appearance on Los Angeles streets, a Los Angeles teenager built his own electric-powered motorized vehicle. Earle C. Anthony (who later became a highly successful auto dealer, introduced L.A.'s earliest gasoline stations, introduced America's earliest commercial neon signage, founded KFI, one of L.A.'s frist radio stations, and helped bring the Dodgers to L.A.) was only 17-years-old when he built his "horseless carriage" from scratch as a school project. It was powered by an electric motor and used chain-drive. It reportedly could get up to 10 mph and apparently could not travel far without needing a re-charge. It handled poorly and was also said to also have been in L.A.'s first automobile accident when it hit a pothole and ran into a pole. The Los Angeles Almanac could not determine if Anthony's automobile preceeded the Erie-Sturgis automobile, but it certainly was California's first electric-powered automobile.

Today, Anthony's vehicle, mostly reconstructed from its origin parts, still exists and is in the collection of the Peterson Automobile Museum.