Edison believed cars would be powered by electricity, and in 1899 he began to develop an alkaline storage battery that would power them. He was on to something: In 1900, about 28 percent of the more than 4,000 cars produced in America did run on electricity [source: PBS]. His goal was to create a battery that would run for 100 miles (161 kilometers) without recharging. Edison gave up the project after about 10 years because the ready abundance of gasoline made the electric car a moot point.
But Edison's work wasn't in vain -- storage batteries became his most profitable invention and were used in miners' headlamps, railroad signals and marine buoys. His friend Henry Ford also used Edison's batteries in his Model Ts.