In the land of the petrol car, the electric truck was remarkably popular – for good reason. Electricity generation in American cities was, as everywhere, a 24-hour affair, and generating companies were anxious to attract users who could fill in their load curves in the middle of the night when ordinary mortals were asleep and not consuming electricity. The cost of recharging electric commercial vehicles at night was thus very low.
The electric truck for local deliveries, street maintenance and garbage collection was extremely popular in the US, and highly competitive when compared with horse-drawn vehicles. Typical figures for range and speed were 50 miles at 10 to 12 mph, which was perfect for these uses.
One of the most successful manufacturers of such trucks was the Walker Vehicle Company of Chicago. This Slider shows a few of the 1,200 Walker machines run by the American Railway Express Co. of New York. Equally impressive was the number of trucks employed by the Chicago department store Marshall Field & Co., at one time the third largest such store in the world. They used 271 trucks for local deliveries. Harrods of London also used Walker trucks, and still own one – although it is nowadays naturally used for promotional purposes only.
Photo courtesy of The Richard Roberts Archive.