100-Year-Old Electric Car History in A Nut Shell

by IndianAuto Team | 26/08/2020
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Electric cars are often seen as future vehicles in sci-fi movies. However, they have existed in this world for more than 100 years. Check out their history in this informative article.

Have been existing for over a century, electric cars are rising in popularity today with more than 3 percent of new vehicle sales, according to Navigant Research. Although the reasons for their upsurge doesn’t change much compared to theirs at the first time they were introduced to the public, electric cars have been through a very interesting chequered history. First started as a trend in transportation, then were replaced by another competitor, and now electric cars are getting its crown back after receiving new forms and new technologies. To discuss more about how electric cars have existed in our world, let’s go back in time, when there was the end of the Industrial Revolution, now also known as the First Industrial Revolution.

A car during the Industrial Revolution

A car during the Industrial Revolution

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The pioneers - When it started as a trend

The Industrial Revolution was a major historical turning point in human history. Among the biggest positive changes that the revolution brought to us is the advancement in transportation. With innovative technologies, mechanics could build a lot of engines using steam, gasoline, or electricity. When they got to design a personal vehicle, they found that steam engines were not a practical method as the startup times took up to 45 minutes. They soon turned to gasoline engines. In the 1800s, mechanics succeeded in creating a gasoline-based vehicle using a renovated combustion engine. However, things weren’t going well with the vehicle as the operation was too difficult, the car was so noisy, and the exhaust was too unpleasant.

Henry Ford's electric car

Henry Ford's Model T Ford

Fortunately, a brilliant breakthrough in battery led the mechanic to a new door, and this was when the electric car history began. In 1820, some genius inventors in the U.S, the Netherlands, and Hungary successfully created the first small-scaled electric cars based on their concept of the battery-powered vehicle. However, only until roughly between 1832 and 1839, other innovators built the first practical electric car. Long after that, thanks to a chemist named William Morrison, the first electric car had its debut. In 1899, because electric cars were free of awful gasoline smell, easy to drive, and so quiet, they gained much popularity, especially among women. To get more interest of customers towards electric cars, many innovators including Ferdinand Porsche, Henry Ford, and Thomas Edison made progress in lowering the cost of electric cars by making the first hybrid electric cars, which use both electricity and gasoline to operate. As a result, in the early 1900s, electric cars accounted for a third of the vehicles on the U.S’ road.

one of the first hybrid cars

This is one of the first hybrid cars.

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After the ups, here came the downs

Extremely high price was the biggest disadvantage of electric cars. After the short-lived upsurge of electric cars in the 1900s, cheap petrol was introduced, and at the same time, Charles Kettering introduced the electric starter which could solve the operation problem on gasoline-based cars. As a negative result to electric cars, prices of gasoline-based cars started to drop; to be more specific, at the meantime, an electric car cost about USD 1750 while a gasoline car cost only USD 650. The gasoline price was not the only thing dropped, but also the sales of electric cars did. Another matter that lured people away from electric cars was the speed limit. Electric cars were only suitable for short trips in the city rather than longer trips because of the energy mechanism. However, gasoline cars could go for miles at a much higher speed with a full gas tank. Consequently, in the 1930s, electric cars were almost eliminated from the auto market.

old gas station

A typical gas station in the past.

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Hope for electric cars to rise again

During the dark age of electric cars, when they seemed to be on the verge of extinction, a shed of light brought hope to them. Because of the overuse in gasoline, not only the atmosphere has been badly polluted, but the fossil fuel underground has also been gradually depleted. Therefore, governments and organizations have been trying to better the situation by finding an alternative for gasoline to reduce the pollution and prepare energy sources before the fossil fuel runs out. After considering many possibilities, they end up including electric cars in their plans. In 1971, NASA’s Lunar Rover, the manned electric vehicle to the moon, helped raise many other organizations’ interest in electric cars. As a spark in the forest, organization one by one started to improve the speed limit, the cost, and the practicality of electric cars:

  • 1997-2000: the release of Toyota Prius, the world’s first mass-produced electric vehicle, became a success with celebrities and increased the profile of electric cars.

  • 2006: Tesla rolled out its electric sports car which can achieve over 200 miles. Because of this event, many other auto companies began to speed up the projects on electric cars to compete with one another.

  • 2010: EV-Box was born and brings smart and scalable charging infrastructure and charging management software to electric vehicles worldwide.

  • 2010: NISSAN launched the first all-electric car, LEAF, with no exhaust, promising a totally green vehicle. This made them the world’s top electric cars selling company.

  • 2010: Chevrolet Volt, the first commercially available plug-in hybrid electric car, joined the race.

  • 2015: The North, especially Norway and Netherlands, become the world’s leading electric vehicles market. In the same year, EX-Box had established more than 36000 charging points in over 840 cities.

Tesla's electric car

Tesla's electric cars are very modern.

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Verdict - The future may hold a lot of possibilities

Many investments in electric vehicles is a good movement to better our world. However, no one can fully predict the future of electric cars. However, we can assure that with more and more electric cars used, the greener is our planet. Statistically, with our current hybrids or plug-in electric vehicles technology, it is possible to reduce the severity of air pollution by about 20 percent. Moreover, with other green methods in the big cities, we can greatly recover the earth and better our health. Speaking of the electricity used, on our journey to improve electric cars, maybe we can find an effective alternative permanent source of power for the world, which is very vital as fossil fuel is running out. Anyway, it's good news that the electric car history still continued after more than a century, and hope it will last for another century.

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