Exploring the Legacy of Anderson Detroit Electric Cars (1907-1939)

The Anderson Detroit Electric was an electric car manufactured by the Anderson Carriage Company and later the Detroit Electric Car Company. It was produced from 1907 to 1939, making it one of the longest-running electric car models of the time.

By the late 1920s, the popularity of electric cars started to decline as internal combustion engine vehicles became more affordable and offered greater range and speed. The Great Depression in the 1930s also had a significant impact on the electric car industry, leading to the eventual discontinuation of the Anderson Detroit Electric in 1939.

Today, the Anderson Detroit Electric is considered a historic and pioneering electric vehicle. It represents an important chapter in the early development of electric cars and serves as a reminder of the advancements made in electric vehicle technology during the early 20th century.

1. Design

The design of the Anderson Detroit Electric evolved over the course of its production years from 1907 to 1939. In 1911, the Detroit Electric Car Company took over the production and continued to refine the design. While specific design details may have varied between different models and model years, I can provide an overview of the general characteristics and features of the Anderson Detroit Electric cars during that period.

Body Style

The Anderson Detroit Electric cars featured a distinctive and elegant design, typical of automobiles from the early 20th century. The body style resembled that of traditional horse-drawn carriages, with a high and rounded hood, large fenders, and a spacious passenger cabin. The cars had four doors and could accommodate up to five passengers

Tiller Steering

One of the notable design aspects of the Anderson Detroit Electric was its tiller steering system. Instead of a conventional steering wheel, the driver controlled the vehicle using a vertical tiller located near the driver’s seat. The tiller allowed for easy maneuverability in urban environments but was eventually replaced by a more familiar steering wheel design in later models.

Exterior Details

The cars featured ornate detailing on the exterior, including decorative trim, polished brass or chrome accents, and stylish curved lines. The front grille area typically had a simple, clean design, with a prominent Detroit Electric badge or logo.

Windows and Roof

The cars had large windows to provide good visibility for the driver and passengers. The windows were often divided into multiple sections and featured elegant frames. Some models had a fabric or leather-covered roof, which could be folded back or removed entirely to create an open-top driving experience.

Battery and Motor Compartment

The Anderson Detroit Electric cars housed their batteries and electric motor in a dedicated compartment. The location and design of this compartment may have varied across different models. The batteries were typically large and heavy, and the compartment was designed to securely hold them while allowing for easy access for maintenance or replacement.


The interiors of the Anderson Detroit Electric cars were designed to offer comfort and luxury. The seats were upholstered in high-quality materials such as leather or fabric. The cabin featured wood trim, plush carpeting, and various amenities to enhance the passenger experience.


The early models of the Anderson Detroit Electric had minimal instrumentation, often limited to a speedometer and an ammeter to monitor the battery’s charge. However, as technology advanced, later models included additional gauges and controls for monitoring various vehicle functions.

2. Engine

The Anderson Detroit Electric cars from 1907 to 1939 were electric vehicles, which means they did not have internal combustion engines. Instead, they were powered by electric motors and batteries. The electric motor provided the propulsion for the vehicle, and the batteries stored the electrical energy needed to run the motor.

DC (Direct Current)

The electric motor used in the Anderson Detroit Electric varied over the years as the technology improved. In the early years, the cars were equipped with DC (direct current) electric motors. These motors were powered by a bank of rechargeable lead-acid batteries. The number and capacity of the batteries varied depending on the model and year of production.

AC (Alternating Current)

As the years went by, advancements in electric motor technology allowed for more efficient and powerful motors. The later models of the Anderson Detroit Electric may have utilized AC (alternating current) motors, which were more efficient and offered improved performance compared to DC motors.

 Lead-Acid Batteries

The batteries used in the Anderson Detroit Electric were typically lead-acid batteries, similar to those used in other electric vehicles of the time. Lead-acid batteries were relatively heavy but provided a decent balance between energy storage and cost-effectiveness. The number and configuration of the batteries varied depending on the specific model, and advancements in battery technology over the years likely influenced the range and performance of the vehicles.

The Anderson Detroit Electric cars relied solely on electric power and did not have a traditional internal combustion engine or any associated components like a fuel tank or exhaust system. This made them quiet, emissions-free, and well-suited for urban driving.

3. Performance

The performance of the 1907–1939 Anderson Detroit Electric cars varied depending on the specific model, year of production, and technological advancements made over the years. Here are some general performance aspects associated with the Anderson Detroit Electric cars during that period:


The top speed of the Anderson Detroit Electric cars typically ranged between 20 to 25 miles per hour (32 to 40 kilometers per hour). These speeds were suitable for urban driving and short-distance travel, which were the primary use cases for electric vehicles at the time. However, specific models and advancements in technology may have influenced the top speed of individual cars.


The range of the Anderson Detroit Electric cars improved over the years as battery technology advanced. Early models had a range of approximately 40 to 50 miles (64 to 80 kilometers) on a single charge, while later models could achieve ranges of 80 to 100 miles (130 to 160 kilometers) or more. The range was influenced by factors such as driving conditions, speed, battery capacity, and the overall efficiency of the vehicle.


Electric vehicles typically exhibit good low-end torque, providing smooth and quick acceleration from a standstill. The Anderson Detroit Electric cars were known for their responsive acceleration, thanks to the electric motor’s torque delivery. While specific acceleration times may not be readily available, the electric motor’s instant torque allowed for brisk acceleration in urban driving situations.


The Anderson Detroit Electric cars required recharging after a certain range had been covered. Charging times depended on the charging infrastructure available at the time, but they were typically longer compared to today’s fast-charging technologies. Recharging involved connecting the vehicle to an electric power source, and the batteries were charged through a process that required several hours.


The Anderson Detroit Electric cars were considered reliable for their time. Electric vehicles were generally simpler in design and had fewer moving parts compared to internal combustion engine vehicles. This inherent simplicity contributed to the reliability of electric cars, including the Anderson Detroit Electric models.

4. Cultural Significance

Early Electric Mobility

The Anderson Detroit Electric cars represent one of the earliest examples of electric mobility. At a time when gasoline-powered cars were prevalent, electric vehicles offered an alternative form of transportation. They were seen as clean, quiet, and efficient, making them popular among urban residents who valued these qualities.

Women’s Empowerment

The Anderson Detroit Electric cars played a significant role in empowering women during the early 20th century. Electric cars were considered more user-friendly than gasoline-powered vehicles, with features like the tiller steering making them easier to drive. This accessibility and convenience made electric cars popular among women, providing them with increased mobility and independence.

Environmental Awareness

Even during the early 1900s, the Anderson Detroit Electric cars represented an environmentally conscious option. Their lack of tailpipe emissions and low noise pollution contributed to a cleaner and quieter urban environment. As concerns about pollution and the environmental impact of transportation have grown over the years, the early adoption of electric vehicles like the Anderson Detroit Electric cars serves as a reminder of the longstanding interest in sustainable transportation solutions.

Technological Innovation

The Anderson Detroit Electric cars showcased the technological innovation of their time. Electric propulsion was a pioneering concept, and the development of efficient electric motors and batteries paved the way for advancements in electric vehicle technology. The continued improvement of these components in the Anderson Detroit Electric models demonstrates the dedication to innovation and pushing the boundaries of electric vehicle engineering.

Historic Automotive Industry

The Anderson Detroit Electric cars are part of the broader automotive history and heritage. They represent a specific era when electric vehicles were a viable alternative to gasoline-powered cars. The longevity of their production, from 1907 to 1939, demonstrates the endurance of electric vehicle manufacturers during a period of technological transition in the automotive industry.

Symbol of Luxury and Elegance

The Anderson Detroit Electric cars were known for their elegant design and luxurious features. They were often associated with affluence and sophistication, appealing to a discerning clientele who desired a high-quality, electric-powered vehicle. The cars’ stylish aesthetics and attention to detail contributed to their cultural significance as symbols of luxury and refinement.

Related Posts

Obscure 1966 Plymouth Belvedere Hardtop Was Customized for Drag Racing Glory

Entitling itself as the “world’s largest collector car auction company,” Mecum is keen on supporting its reputation with as many events as possible. The auctioneer just wrapped…

1967 Chevy Camaro SS Yenko 502 Ram Jet Tribute Was Born Out of One Man’s Passion

GM aficionados will probably agree that owning an original Chevy Camaro is always special. So, how about lovingly keeping in the family a ‘67 for more than…

1957 Chevrolet 210 Was Left to Rot in a Junkyard, Takes First Drive in 50 Years

Keeping a classic car in long-term storage isn’t all that bad if it all happens in a heated garage. However, a few years out in the open…

1959 Chevrolet Impala 348 Flexes Everything Original, Needs Nothing But Love

While Chevrolet launched the Impala nameplate in 1958, the actual debut as a stand-alone series happened a year later. In other words, the Impala needed just one year to evolve from…

1966 Lincoln Continental Is a Time Capsule From the Golden Decade of American Car Making

Depending on where loyalties lie, each of us can point to a different decade in automotive industry as being the best of them all. After all, we…

All-Original 1964 Chevrolet Chevelle SS Doesn’t Deserve to Become a Rust Bucket

The Impala was Chevrolet’s big star during the ‘60s, and since the GM brand tried to make the most of this model’s momentum, other lineups more or…