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A Brief History of Electric Cars: From the Early Pioneers to the Future of e-Mobility

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One may think that the first electric car ever made was created when Tesla Motors launched the Tesla Roadster in 2008, right? Wrong. This is only the first mass-produced electric car made in modern times, but the invention date of Electric Vehicles (EVs) goes (Way!) back, as far as the 1830s. In this article, we will tell you a brief history of electric cars.

Historical Timeline

EVs have been present in the world since the 1830s. They were created even before the first rechargeable battery was invented. This is the electric vehicle history timeline:

The Early Pioneers of Electric Mobility (1830-1880)

The history of electric automobiles began in 1832 when the Scotsman Robert Anderson created the first electric vehicle in the world (more like a battery-powered carriage). Around the same decade, Ányos Jedlik (Hungarian) and Sibrandus Stratingh (Dutch) created another electric car. The bad news was that these vehicles did not feature a rechargeable battery.
The Lead-Acid rechargeable battery was created in 1860 by French physicist Gaston Plante, but it was not until 1880 when chemist William Morrison created the very first electric car. This was a twelve-passenger seat EV that reached a speed of 14 mph, which although not very fast, it became the first electric car ever built.

The Transition to Motorized Transport: The Reasons for the Disappearance of Electric Cars (1880-1914)

After the first practical electric vehicle was built in the year 1880, people stopped using horse-carried carriages and the history of electric vehicles in society began. At the time, EVs were far more popular than Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles, New York even had a fleet of 60 electric taxis.

From 1900 to 1910 with the invention of electric cars, sales for these vehicles skyrocketed and became the most popular mobility solution for American society. Companies like Porsche and inventors like Thomas Edison were looking for ways to improve technology, but they were not successful.

The one who did succeed was Henry Ford with the mass production of its Model T ICE vehicle, which turned him into the antagonist of the timeline history of the electric car. In 1912, EVs had a cost of $1,750, but Ford’s ICE vehicles were priced at $650, and this is why ICE vehicles started to gain popularity and popularity for EVs decreased.

The Rise of the Internal Combustion Engine (1914-1970)

The 1900s was a success for internal combustion engine vehicles. The first ten years after the mass production of the Model T Ford, other automakers devoted their resources to producing different ICE vehicles that were rapidly released into the market.
From 1914 to the late 1960s, ICE vehicles were the cheapest and most reliable mobility resource for American society and gasoline was abundant, so everyone was moving around. Another contributing fact to the success of ICE vehicles was the rapid development of paved roads connecting U.S. cities, making citizens want to travel around the country.
As the last years of the 1960s arrived, so did an increase in oil prices and a gasoline shortage. Traveling around the country stopped being so cheap and driving ICE vehicles became relatively more expensive.

The Return of Electric Vehicles (1970-2003)

As oil and gasoline prices increased, the U.S. government became interested in achieving independence from foreign oil, especially after the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo. ICE vehicles were popular at the time, but many still remembered the world’s first electric car and became interested in connecting early electric cars history with modern history, and so came 1976.

In 1976 the U.S. Congress passed an act that promoted the research and development of electric and hybrid vehicles. This act was known as the Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Research, Development, and Demonstration Act of 1976, and so the return of electric vehicles was imminent.

After the 1976 act was announced, came the Clean Air Act Amendment and the 1992 Energy Policy Act. These two renewed the interest of the U.S. in EVs, while the first electric car in history passed from a distant memory to an inspiration. Automakers all over the country were once again turning their attention towards EVs.

The first electric car options in modern history were the CitiCar created by Sebring-Vanguard and the EV1, an urban electric car prototype created by General Motors (GM). Many companies worldwide also became interested in EVs, Toyota even released its Toyota Prius in 1997, the first Japanese mass-produced hybrid vehicle.

Even though automakers were interested in EVs, they were still thriving with ICE vehicles, but two entrepreneurs named Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning were considering this as the opportunity of their lives. These two had a game-changing plan that would revolutionize the EV industry for good.

The Revolution (2003-2020)

The name of the startup created by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning would later be known as Tesla Motors. Early in the startup, these two entrepreneurs brought on another key member as a founder figure: Elon Musk.

In 2003, Elon Musk was already approving the first Tesla EV: The Roadster. From June to July 2009, the Roadster was produced 500 times, but mass production went on from 2010 up to 2012.

Tesla also announced its second EV in 2009: the Tesla Model S sedan. As the 2010s started rolling out, many new EV models were being launched into the market, some major ones were the Nissan LEAF, the Chevrolet Volt, the Volvo C30 DRIVe Electric, and others.

One breakthrough that sped up the EV revolution was the price decrease of Lithium-Ion batteries, being reduced by around 97% compared to 1991. The EV revolution kept its electric engine running and started making EV sales in 2010. These sales rapidly grew and achieved 2.5 million by 2019, and this number kept on growing into 2020 and so on.

The Future of Electric Mobility (2021 and Beyond)

The road since the first electric car was invented up to 2021 was full of ups and downs, but this year was worthy of celebration. In 2021, EV sales reached a new record high of 6.6 million. By this year, more than 16.5 million electric cars were riding on the streets and so the future of mobility was here to stay.

The e-Mobility is as of today an unstoppable force. It is expected that by 2035 many major automakers go fully electric. What is more impressive, Europe has completely banned sales of ICE vehicles since 2035 and many countries worldwide are following the same trend. The U.S. expects that by 2030 at least 50% of the vehicles sold in the country are electric.

Major Cars in History

Since the first electric car was built in the 1800s, many impressive and inspirational EVs have been seen throughout history. The following list introduces some major EVs in worldwide history:

Nick Zamanov
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Nick Zamanov is a head of sales and business development at Cyber Switching. He is an expert in EV infrastructure space and he is an EV enthusiast since 2012, Since then Nick strongly believed that electric vehicles would eventually replace Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) cars.

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