Just like the space race, electric cars have become one of the motoring industries most thrilling innovation journeys. From starting life in the 1800s, the electric vehicle is hardly a modern-day invention. Its humble beginnings are nothing to ignore.
Born out of the age of discovery, and when advances in technology were something to sing about, the electric car made its timely debut.
Now, as the likes of Tesla and Nissan are commonplace in any conversation about electric vehicles (EVs), it’s about time we shed a spotlight on how electric cars have evolved over time. Let’s take a look:
First crude electric vehicle
At the height of the 1800s, some of the best minds were at work. From the creation of the stethoscope to the world’s first blood transfusion, groundbreaking discoveries were being made. It’s no surprise that the electric lightbulb would lead to much more ambitious projects in the age of enlightenment.
In 1828 the horse and carriage were all the rage, but they weren’t particularly fast at getting you from A to B. Innovative minds from Hungary, the Netherlands and the US were not best pleased about the state of transportation, so started to look to the future and soon began developing the first crude small-scale electric vehicle.
Taking the ball running, Scottish inventor Robert Anderson introduced the first crude electric vehicle to the world in 1832. The next four decades would see the electric car’s rise, taking it from crude to practical.
Stateside, Iowa-born inventor William Morrison created the first successful US electric vehicle. For what can only be described as a glorified electrified wagon, Morrison’s design was striking.
Turn of the century
Living in the 1900s was an exciting time to be alive. Planck discovers the quantum nature of energy, the Wright Brothers fly the first motorised plane, and Marconi receives the first radio signal over the Atlantic. Now imagine having access to one of the world’s newest additions to the motoring industry!
At the turn of the century, the electric vehicle had drastically increased in popularity. Quiet, comfortable to drive and practically pollutant-free, they were very popular amongst women in urban areas. All the rage in the US, electric cars accounted for about a third of all vehicles on the roads.
Fresh from his lightbulb moment, Thomas Edison fully backed the electric vehicle. Determined to increase the longevity of battery power, Edison worked tirelessly to build a better battery.
Discovering the hybrid
Today Porsche is renowned for its sleek, savvy designs matched with power and incredible performance. With the mind of Ferdinand Porsche behind the brand, it’s no wonder! In 1908, Porsche released the world’s first-ever hybrid electric car, the Lohner-Porsche Mixte.
Not unlike hybrids we see today, Porsche’s hybrid was powered by the electricity stored in the battery alongside a gas engine. Groundbreaking stuff!
The rise and fall of the 1900s electric car
In one of the most exciting times to be alive, the 1900s saw a rapidly changing world. Like all trends, the electric car was soon overshadowed by the likes of the mass-produced Model T, which were more affordable than most vehicles on the road.
The introduction of the electric starter in 1912, gave the gas-powered vehicle the edge it needed to claim the world’s attention. From being the king on the road to being rarely spoken about, the electric car had come to the end of its popularity.
Cheaper crude oil became much more widely distributed, and the electric car was silenced for the next fifty years.
Soaring petrol prices
Amongst many things, the sixties and seventies were part psychedelic dream balanced with thrilling advances in the technological world. NASA’s lunar rover famously lands on the moon, which throws spotlight once again on the electric vehicle.
People start to take notice as petrol prices soar through the roof, and the need for alternative vehicles starts to gain momentum.
The likes of General Motors and Sebring-Vanguard launch prototypes and subsequent operational electric cars onto the market, quickly gaining popularity for the electric car once more. Sebring-Vanguard’s CitiCar becomes an instant hit in urban areas due to its compact design matched with its 50-60 mile range. Trendy.
Towards the end of the 1970s, the electric car again begins to fade from the public consciousness. Limitations in performance, range and design appeal become a significant spanner in the works.
We all know that motoring regulations are a conscientious topic for most. The 1990s were no exception. With new regulations allowing for electric car modifications, the motoring industry starts to get excited about electric cars again. Speed and performance are pushed to the max and start competing with their gas-operated peers.
Enter GM’s EV1. Stylish, edgy and giving off a futuristic appeal, the EV1 soon gained cult appeal.
Say hello to the Toyota Prius
Environmentally friendly and fueled by celebrity attention, Toyota’s release of the iconic Prius was a revelation in the motor industry. The electric hybrid was suddenly in vogue again, but with a more grounded approach to design and innovation. The Prius has stood the test of time to this day.
The Tesla Revolution
Elon Musk is perhaps one of the world’s most well-known motor developers. He has changed the way we think about technology, energy and gave his kid a really odd name! What’s more outstanding is that Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors was a small startup in Silicon Valley. Musk revolutionised the electric car and injected life into the motoring industry.
Electric cars were no longer safe and boring; they were luxurious, sporty and could push the 200+ mile range mark in one hit.
Infrastructure prepares the way
Dotted up and down the motorways, you cannot escape the sight of a plug-in, electric car dock. You will even see them in the supermarket car park, train stations, airports and even IKEA. The world is now ready to embrace the electric car fully.
With many nations across the globe creating initiatives to combat emissions, the electric car’s rise to power has never looked so permanent.
Battery power has never been more impressive, and the variety of electric vehicles in the market is quite simply exciting. With more and more schemes available and electric car loans to boot, your step into the electric vehicle world is not as far away as you first thought.
Are you ready for the future? If the evolution of the electric car is anything to go by, our roads are going to look very different in the next decade alone!