Electric motors came to be used in cabs at an early stage. As in the "Mercedes Electrique" shown here (photograph taken in Berlin around 1906) – a motorcar with electric motors built into the car wheels that were fed from a battery.
These vehicles soon brought great advantages for the taxi trade: they didn't smell and were less noisy than the gasoline-powered cabs – which was a very pleasant aspect for the passengers of the day. Their operating safety proved to be significantly better compared with the early gasoline models. They could be started quickly and their upkeep was relatively cost efficient - because mechanical parts such as gears, the clutch or chains for power transmission were eliminated by the use of electric wheel hub motors. This made repairs easier to handle.
The disadvantage of the relatively small range of about 90 kilometers and the moderate speed of about 30 kilometers per hour did not have a serious effect in city traffic, not least because the top speed allowed by the public authorities was limited to 15 kilometers per hour.
Electric engines in carriages
The batteries were generally removed from the vehicle and charged in company-owned yards. With a second set of batteries, the vehicle could return to its route quickly.
However, in the first two decades of the last century, the technology of pure electric vehicles was simply not yet mature enough to compete successfully with the gasoline-driven car that - for its part - was becoming increasingly more reliable.