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History of Electric Vehicles

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Surprisingly electric vehicles have been around for many years, though there’s no specific date to pinpoint where it all started we do however have a great understanding from the 1800s for past inventions which played a huge role in the development of EVs we see today.

Travel back in time and discover where it all started.

1832 – 1839

Between 1832 – 1839 the Scottish inventor Robert Anderson invented the first crude electric carriage powered by non-rechargeable primary cells.

Robert Anderson was a 19th-century Scottish inventor

1859 – 1865

Between 1859 – 1865 was a revolutionary step towards electric vehicles! In 1859 a great French physicist Gaston Planté invented the rechargeable lead-acid storage battery, later on in 1881, Camille Faure improved the storage battery’s ability to supply current as well as inventing the basic lead-acid battery used in automobiles.

Planté lead-acid battery, ca 1860 (Science Museum, London)


One of the first mass-produced electric cars was invented by British inventor Thomas Parker in 1881, which he would regularly drive to work in his hometown of Wolverhampton. Unfortunately the ship carrying his second prototype travelling to Paris, sank in the channel.


In 1891 William Morrison built the first successful electric automobile in the United States. Things began to take off when William signed a contract with the American Battery Company to manufacture his invention as well as promote it. Morrison Electric’ were mostly poor by today’s standards: the batteries took 10 hours to recharge and top speed was between 6 and 12 miles per hour.

William Morrison in his EV


The first electric cars to be used as taxis came along in 1897, when the Electric Carriage and Wagon Company of Philadelphia supplied 12 cars for use in New York.


In the 1900s the popularity of electric cars was rapidly rising especially in America. In fact, of the 4192 cars produced in the US in 1900, 28% were electric. Its popularity was thought to be because the electric cars didn’t have the vibrations, smells or noise of their petrol- or steam-powered equivalents.

1908 – 1912

The Future of EVs was looking bright but the success of electric cars had stalled by 1912 due to Henry Ford, whose mass production techniques had brought down the price of petrol-powered cars, making them significantly cheaper than electric alternatives.

Around the same time Charles Kettering invented the first practical electric automobile starter. This made gasoline-powered autos more alluring to consumers by eliminating the unwieldy hand crank starter and as a result almost destroyed the Electric car. Electric cars had all but disappeared from the US by 1935, and development wouldn’t begin again until the 1960s and 1970

Henry Ford


Concerns about the soaring price of oil and a growing environmental movement resulted in renewed interests in electric cars from both consumers and producers.


In 1972 Victor Wouk built the first full-powered, full-size hybrid vehicle out of a 1972 Buick Skylark provided by General Motors for the 1970 Federal Clean Car Incentive Program. Unfortunately this program was later scraped a few years later.

Victor Wouk with his hybrid electric vehicle


An electric car was invented by an Isle of Wight company Enfield Automotive, the car was called Enfield 8000.

Enfield 8000 – Produced by an Isle of Wight Company


During the 1970s electric cars were making a comeback, with congress passing the Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Research, Development, and Demonstration Act. The law is intended to push along the development of new technologies including improved batteries, motors, and other hybrid-electric components.


Toyota unveils the Prius – the world’s first commercially mass-produced and marketed hybrid car (in Japan). Nearly 18,000 units are sold during the first production year.

Toyota Prius


In 2006 the company Tesla Motors publicly unveils the ultra-sporty Tesla Roadster at the San Francisco International Auto Show. To be sold in 2008 for the base price listing of $98,950.

Tesla Roadster 2006


Gas prices reach record highs of more than $4 a gallon and car sales drop to their lowest levels in a decade. American automakers begin to shift their production lines away from SUVs and other large vehicles toward smaller, more fuel-efficient cars.


Prime Minister Gordon Brown announces that the British government will promote the use of electric vehicles in the U.K. by offering a £2,000 subsidy to purchasers. A high-ranking government official estimates that 40% of all cars in Britain will need to be electric or hybrid for the country to reach it’s goal of cutting 80% of its CO2 emissions by 2050.

In the same time frame the car company Nissan unveils its new electric car, called the LEAF. The LEAF is capable of a maximum speed of more than 90 mph, can travel 100 miles on a full charge, and has a battery that can be recharged to 80% of its capacity in 30 minutes.


Today we see electric cars everywhere we go, the combination of high fuel prices and CO2 emissions are pushing people towards going full electric. It’s estimated that by 2050 80% of the cars (in the UK) will be electric, this will be a gradual process in seizing production of fossil fuels powered cars and creating fully electric cars with the ever improving research and technology.


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