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Electric Cars Past And Future On Display

Car Show Highlights Hartford's Past As 'Little Detroit'


November 19, 2010

Think the electric-powered car is a new invention? The 1904 electric Runabout had a range of 40 miles same as the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, though the Volt gains an additional 300 miles with a nine-gallon gas tank and a gasoline motor that doesn't drive the car but recharges the battery.

What comes around goes around, and the Chevrolet Volt occupies a revolving stage at the Connecticut International Auto Show, which runs through Sunday at the Connecticut Convention Center in downtown Hartford.

The show also features two "Pope-mobiles." No, not that Pope. These are a 1903 Pope-Hartford Model B and a 1909 Pope-Hartford Model S.

And yes, the Hartford nameplate, in brilliant gold script, refers to Connecticut's capital city, where the two vintage cars were made by Pope Manufacturing Co., one of the first car companies to mass-produce electric-powered vehicles, including the Runabout. ( Theodore Roosevelt became the first president to ride in a car when he rolled through Hartford streets in a Pope electric model in 1902.)

Automaker Augustus Pope believed gasoline-powered vehicles would catch fire long before they would ever catch on. "'Gas blows up. Nobody is going to buy a car that will blow up,'" Pope reputedly quipped, said James Fleming, president of the Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association, which is sponsoring the event.

Pope was wrong, of course, but electric vehicles have always held the interest of some motorists. Along with the latest cars, trucks, SUVs and hybrids from more than a dozen automakers, and antique and muscle cars, the event also features a 1923 Detroit an electric-powered sedan made by the Detroit Electric Co.

In July, General Motors announced that Connecticut would be included in the Volt's initial launch. California, Michigan and Washington, D.C., will receive the first batch of cars in a few weeks, followed by Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Texas early next year.

Fleming credits GM's decision to the state's Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Council, whose mission is to spark creation of an infrastructure that's superconducive to electric vehicles.

The council would like to see 25,000 electric vehicles, which are considered zero-emission vehicles, on Connecticut's roads by 2020. A fitting goal, given that Hartford, at the turn of the 19th century, was a "Little Detroit" and the electric car its king.

The show also features the 2011 Cadillac CTS-V, the 2011 Mercedes Gull Wing and the "piggy-bank," a custom-detailed truck whose rear-end flips up to reveal a 55-inch HD television and an 18,000-watt sound system. The name derives from the fact that "we'll never get our money out of it," said Matt Jackson, chief executive of AfterFX, which has shops in Stamford and Plainfield, N.H.

This year for the first time, more than a dozen auto dealers will sell pre-owned vehicles on display at Front Street. Participating dealers will offer a $200 coupon, valid through January, on a new or used vehicle.

The auto show runs today from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 6 to 12, free for 6 and younger. Or bring and unwrapped toy, drop it off at the Ford Motor Display, and get free admission to the show.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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