A glimpse at the history of electric cars


Electric cars have been around longer than you think!

Did you know that electric vehicles have been around since the 1830’s? Although to begin with they were not like cars today, inventors have been interested in using electricity in some form or another to power vehicles for nearly 200 years.

Here is a glimpse at some of the inventors:

In 1832, Robert Anderson of Scotland developed the first crude electric vehicle, a motorised carriage. The electric-powered carriage used a non-rechargeable battery and eliminated the need for horses to pull a carriage.

Thomas Davenport in 1835, created the first practical electric vehicle, a small locomotive that was powered by the first DC electric motor.

The game changer for electric cars was in 1859 with the invention of rechargeable lead-acid storage batteries by French physicist Gaston Plante. This enabled the storage of electricity on board a vehicle. Inventors began to look at way to use this new technology.

Thomas Parker an inventor who was born in Shropshire, had many successes during his time. He claimed to have built the first production electric car in 1884 that he was commuting to work in. Mr Parker also had his battery-powered trams running in Birmingham and Liverpool and electrified the London Underground.

William Morrison of Des Moines, Iowa, had great success in the U.S with his electrified carriage during 1889 to 1891. The vehicle was a six-passenger wagon that could reach speeds of up to 14 mph. It was estimated that one third of all vehicles on the U.S roads were powered by electricity in 1890. The uptake was driven by electric cars being less noisy, easier to drive and gave out less pollutants than the traditional vehicles. American residents who lived in urban areas and especially woman choose electric vehicles over gas and steam.

As the success built with electric cars inventors started to study and research how to make improvements and build electric batteries.

In 1901 the world’s first hybrid electric car was foundered by Ferdinand Porsche. The Lohner-Porsche Mixte was powered by electricity stored in a battery and a gasoline engine.

Henry Ford launched the Ford Model T gasoline car to the world in 1908. It was massed produced, more affordable, and easier to refuel. This was a giant blow to the electric car industry and where we see a decline and quiet period for electric cars. The new Ford Model T was so successful, 15 million were sold in the first 19 years.

The price of petrol skyrocketed in the 1960’s to 1970’s, and the next generation of electric cars were born. British chemist M. Stanley Whittingham invented the world’s first rechargeable lithium-ion battery the same battery that we use in our electric cars today. But then as petrol prices start to decrease, the electric vehicle market declined. Hindered by limited performance and range, car owners choose to stick with petrol powered cars.

Until the 1990’s when car manufactures such as Toyota and Honda started to mass produce hybrid vehicles. Again, sparking interest back into electric vehicles and research into improving performance and range.

This brings us back to the modern day with the purchasing of electric vehicles on the incline. Following the environmental benefits of an electric car, saving on fuel costs and the government’s commitment for all new cars in the UK to be ‘zero-emissions capable’ by 2035.

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