On Dec. 18, 1898, Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat sets the first recognized land speed record for automobiles - of 39.245 mph (63.159 km/h) in a Jeantaud electric car…
I repeat: in an electric car!
"Although there are many conflicting lists of challengers for the World Land Speed Records held by different authorities throughout the world, it is a curious whim of history that the first six entries are always the same: the three runs each by Camille Jenatzy and the Count de Chasseloup-Laubat.
Jenatzy’s case is easy to record, because he used the same car (also an electric!), “La Jamais Contente”, for all runs. But the Chasseloup-Laubat brothers, one the constructor, the other and younger the driver, re-built and re-bodied their car for their last run.
It is difficult to discover much detail about these cars of more than 100 years ago, but it is recorded that when the two electric champions first met on the famous Acheres road outside Paris three other cars, all petrol-engined, also attacked the record over the measured kilometre on the same occasion.
One was a de Dion tricycle and both the others were Bollee three-wheelers of the familiar pattern (some still run in the annual London - Brighton event) in which the fearless passenger sat in front of the driver. But the petrol engine in its contemporary stage of development proved slower than the short-range electric cars.
Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat used a far less streamlined body for his first two runs, but when he was beaten twice by Jenatzy he re-bodied the car, having attributed Jenatzy’s superior speed to the wind-cheating shape of the “La Jamais Contente”. None of the three electric cars had any visible braking system, and evidently relied on the electric motors for braking as well as supplying power. In spite of Count Gaston’s effort to reduce frontal area and improve the power-weight ratio, it was Jenatzy who won the electric-powered battle in the end, when he broke the 100 km/h limit, reaching 105,85 km/h in 1899.” (Source)
Jenatzy’s “The Never Content” - the fastest thing on wheels in 1899