A Visual History Of The Electric Car

1830s-The World Begins Work on Electric Vehicles

The first electric vehicle was invented, however the start of the electric vehicle industry was not a clear cut beginning. In the 1830s there were multiple people around the world working on the invention of the electric vehicle. 

While these were technically electric vehicles, they were prototype vehicles that were crudely built to prove the concept of an electric motor or storage battery. 

During this time, Robert Anderson would build a carriage that was electric powered. Professor Stratingh and Thomas Davenport would also go on to build an electric car that would prove that the future of electric vehicles was possible. 

The most interesting fact is all of these inventors were working in different parts of the world with the same idea. Scotland, The Netherlands, and The United States of America were budding with innovation and inventors were excited to work on this new form of transportation.

1896-The First Practical Electric Vehicle is Created

Even though the electric vehicle had technically been invented 60 years earlier, William Morrison would not be discouraged with bringing what many call the first real electric car to market. 

William Morrison was a chemist who had a deep interest in battery development. His work found him trying to improve batteries’ energy density. Basically improving the amount of energy per unit of weight. 

To demonstrate his battery technology he fitted some of the batteries he was designing to a horse drawn carriage and equipped an electric motor that would be able to drive the wheels of the buggy.

What made his innovation stand out was the controls that allowed him to steer the direction of the vehicle as well as the speed. 

This made his electric vehicle the first practical electric car available. So practical in fact that he drove it in a parade in 1890 garnering much interest. The vehicle proved to be so popular that he received over 16,000 letters wanting more information about this innovative new vehicle. 

1900-1912  The Electric Vehicle Gains traction

Even while internal combustion engine car sales were growing, the electric car movement was growing alongside. 

The electric car was popular during the early 1900s with over ⅓ of all cars on the road being powered by an electric drivetrain. 

The electric vehicle had unique advantages over gasoline powered vehicles and it would use these to compete.

Marketing materials of the day would show buyers the better alternative that electric vehicles offered. These owners would be able to enjoy a much quieter and cleaner alternative to the other choices available during that time. 

Electric vehicle acceptance would begin to wane after Ford introduced an innovative advancement in 1912, the electric starter. 

Up until 1912, vehicles would have to be hand cranked in order to start. This was viewed as a negative for certain vehicle owners and they would prefer the simplicity of an electric drivetrain. 

When the electric starter was equipped and owners now only had to turn a key. The advantages electric vehicles had over internal combustion powered vehicles was now over.

1935-The Electric Vehicle Loses Popularity

When 1935 arrived electric cars had all but vanished. Many reasons attributed to this downfall of the popularity that the electric vehicle had during the start of the 1900s. 

As the road systems improved and cheap oil was being shipped from Texas, fuel was readily available and cheap.

Another nail in the coffin of the future of the electric car. 

1971-The Electric Vehicle Finds Itself on the Moon

While it did not receive as many viewers as the Apollo 11 moon landing, the Apollo 15 mission would see the delivery of a vehicle to the moon. 

While not exactly affordable, coming in at $38,000,000. The lunar lander was the first vehicle to drive on the moon and was fully electric. 

Powered by four 0.25 horsepower motors it also wasn’t the fastest vehicle ever. It did record a top speed of 11.2 mph which would be an “Out of this world speed record”. Sorry, I needed to make a joke somewhere. 

The lunar lander was only the start of the interest in electric vehicles during the 1970s. The oil crisis was in full swing which forced people to rethink their dependence on fossil fuels. The interest in electric vehicles was renewed. 

General Motors got to work and created a prototype urban vehicle that was electric and CitiCar started production of a small electric vehicle as well.

The CitiCar turned out to be a small success for the company, seeing production of more than 2000 units over the course of 3 years from 1974-1977

The momentum for electric vehicles was beginning to build again. 

However, as soon as the oil crisis was over, so was the interest of the general public in an electric vehicle. 

1996-The GM EV1 Becomes the First Mass Produced Electric Vehicle

The EV1 was released and immediately had a large cult following. The EV1 was not the first electric vehicle ever made but it was the first mass produced electric car and would pave the way for future electric vehicles. 

EV1 production was cancelled due to what GM stated was an unprofitable product. After all, how would they recoup over $440 million that was spent on development. 

Citing this as the reason, the leases of the owners were ended and the vehicles were destroyed. Despite being a loved vehicle by all of its lease holders, the EV1 program has been shrouded in secrecy and conspiracies ever since. 

Some rumours spread that production was stopped due to “Big Oil”. They cite references linking a Texaco purchase of GM Ovonics, the battery maker for the EV1. 

While all this has sparked documentaries and books, there was no denying the fact that the EV1 rekindled the public’s interest in electric vehicles. 

1997-The Iconic Toyota Prius Is Released, Marking the First Mass Produced Hybrid

The Toyota Prius was a success from the beginning. The original release of the Prius occurred in Japan during 1997 while the release in the United States followed 3 years later. 

It was the first mass produced hybrid vehicle. Owners would now be able to experience the joy of electric only travel while having an internal combustion engine as a back up if they needed to drive a longer distance. 

From the start the Prius was popular and within a short time eco conscious celebrities and politicians used the Prius to display their viewpoint and save the planet. 

The Toyota Prius really proved to the world that widespread adoption of an electric vehicle was possible. Proving this was the 123,000 units that were sold from 1997 to 2003.

2003-Tesla Is Founded

Tesla was founded in 2003, even though production of the original Tesla Roadster would not begin until 2009. 

The Tesla Roadster was a unique vehicle that was able to show the public that an electric vehicle platform could also include performance. 

The original Tesla Roadster was rumoured to have been a modified Lotus Elise. 

While Lotus provided Tesla with the chassis of the Elise, it was far from ready to drive down the road. 

Tesla needed to fit the drivetrain to the vehicle as well as the battery storage and management system. This led to the vehicles being very different. 

Once the design was finalised and production began, only 7% of the parts used on the Tesla were shared with the Lotus Elise. 

Tesla would begin to forge the path for the mass adoption of electric vehicles that would occur a short 20 years later. 

2022-The Age of Electric Vehicles Has Arrived

When 2022 arrived, so did the age of the electric vehicle. A quick look at automotive manufacturers proves that electric power is here to stay. 

The best selling vehicle, the Ford F-150 is available as a fully electric vehicle, proving that change is not only necessary but also wanted. 

This has begun an interesting time for electric vehicles, change is sure to come to all corners of the automotive industry. 

I think the whole world is looking forward to seeing the changes that electric vehicles will have on the planet and our culture. 

Here is to the future electric power, here is to the future. 

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