In the early 1900s, Henry Ford bought his wife Clara an electric car, which traveled on American roads alongside Ford's Model T and was undeniably more extravagant.

So why, a century later, as our society becomes more sustainability-minded, hasn't the popularity of the electric vehicle surpassed that of the internal combustion engine?

In his new book, "Are We There Yet? The American Automobile Past, Present, and Driverless," Dan Albert examines our relationship to the old-fashioned car throughout history.

"Right now the car companies are losing money selling [electric cars]," Albert told Boston Public Radio on Tuesday. "And it's a huge threat to the economics of the companies, to the dealerships, and also they kind of have to get through that valley where it's not profitable now, maybe it will be, but it's a tricky business right now."

Albert said automakers and motor heads face a crossroads. What will become of the American automobile as we forego teaching our children to drive, instead turning to ride hailing and driverless cars?

"We are the canary in the coal mines," he said.

Dan Albert is an historian and technology journalist who writes about cars and culture for n+1 magazine.