Vehicles now considered “alternative power” have existed since the automobile’s creation. In 1900, steam, electric and gasoline powered vehicles could be seen on the roads of major American cities. For example, in New York, Boston and Chicago, 34% of cars were powered by electricity and nearly half were run on steam.
Following the discovery of significant reserves of oil in Texas and California, the price of gasoline dropped substantially in the 1920s. As a result, gasoline-fueled internal-combustion engines became wildly popular, although many engineers believed that alternative power sources still held promise.
Experimentation continued with alternative fuels, electric power and even steam throughout the twentieth century. Contemporary alternative power vehicles are designed to use fuels more efficiently than typical gasoline-powered cars, reducing or eliminating emissions. These vehicles contain state-of-the-art, often experimental, technology that may form the blueprint for future automobiles.