Back when new technologies were just beginning to threaten the horse in urban transportation, a scam unrelated to the underlying technology may have set back electric vehicles, relative to their internal combustion counterparts. So posits this article in The Economist’s Technology Quarterly, in any case.
Between 1907 and 1909, electric buses traversed the streets of London. The company that built them was eventually driven to bankrupcy by the machinations of Edward Lehwess: “a German lawyer and serial con-artist with a taste for fast cars and expensive champagne.” After destroying the ability of the company to raise capital, he bought eight of the twenty electric buses for Â£800, then sold them to Brighton for Â£3,500.
At the very least, this demonstrates the ability of non-technological factors to significantly affect the fate of new innovations. At the most, it makes one wonder whether a more sustainable form of public transport could have gained dominance over the last century, to the benefit of the climate and those breating urban air.