Fritchle electric car, ‘100 years ahead of its time,’ parks at History Colorado

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(Photo: CPR/Pat Mack)
<p>The creator of the car, Oliver Fritchle, claimed it could travel 100 miles on a single battery charge. He did drive it once from Denver to Colorado Springs on one charge.</p>

History Colorado is now displaying a rare piece of early automotive history at its downtown Denver museum.

The 1914 Fritchle electric car had a range of 60-100 miles on one battery charge. It's believed to be the last existing car built by Fritchle Automobile and Battery Company of Denver.

The vehicle was damaged when a flood undermined the foundation of a storage facility, collapsing the roof onto the car. A Pennsylvania company spent a year and a half restoring it.

"It looks fantastic," says Bill Convery, state historian.

On Tuesday, workers unloaded the vehicle and installed it as part of History Colorado's A to Z exhibit.

It was the brainchild of Oliver Fritchle, a chemist, battery innovator and entreprenuer. He produced several hundred electric vehicles.

The car on display doesn't run anymore, but when the museum acquired it in the 1980s it was driven to the facility.

Critics scoffed at Fritchle's claim that the vehicles had a 100-mile range. In response, Convery says Fritchle drove one from Denver to Colorado Springs on a single charge, a distance of about 60 miles.

"The Fritchle automobile was 100 years ahead of its time," Convery says.

Convery says the car was aimed at society women for trips around town. The service package included delivering the cars to owners. Once they were done driving, the car was returned to the company where it was serviced and recharged.

To publicize his creation, Fritchle drove one of his electric cars from Denver to New York. The car held up, but finding places to recharge and navigating early 20th Century roads was challenging.

Over time, gas vehicles won over the market in part because they cost less. Model Ts at the time cost about $500, while the Fritchles ran about $1,500.

"It just couldn't compete," Convery says. "The electric car idea did not catch on in the early 1900s. It took us a century to catch up to Fritchle."