The disadvantages were that electric cars lacked the range and speed of gas or steam cars, so they were marketed as the ideal choice for women since, it was said, they needed neither speed nor range just to run errands around town.
The problem for the electric motor was that little could be done to improve it. Meanwhile, gas engines became quieter and cleaner. General Motors tipped the balance towards gas-powered cars even further with its invention of the electric starter in 1911, which meant they no longer had to be hand-cranked to start.
GM didn't abandon the electric car altogether. In the past century, it's made several attempts to bring one market, so far with little success.
Materials from GM's extensive archives in Warren Mich. offer a look at the carmaker's various forays into electric drive over the past century. One might finally take off.