Alice Poole

Alice Poole

Alice applies her extensive test drive experience and her passion for motors to bring you informed and characterful articles and vehicle reviews.

Read time of 5 minutes.

A brief history of electric cars

Although electric cars are commonly perceived to be a recent invention, their history actually dates back to the 19th century. The true origin is widely debated. However, between 1828 and 1835 a number of inventors from across Europe and America produced various forms of electric powered vehicle. 

It was French physician Gaston Plate who, in 1865, created the first rechargeable battery. This making the application of electric power to mass motoring a more feasible possibility. 

In 1884, a year before the arrival of the world's first production car (the Benz patent motorwagen), Thomas Parker created the first roadworthy electric car. Parker is believed to have used his invention to travel to and from work in his hometown of Wolverhampton. A second prototype of this electric vehicle was transported to France in order to commence mass production. However, the ship carrying it sadly sank enroute.

The first electric carriage to successfully be massed produced came in 1891 thanks to William Morrison, based in Iowa USA. It was powered by a 4bhp electric motor that took 10 hours to recharge. Its top speed was between 6 - 12 mph but could offer a range of over 100 miles.

1897 saw the first electric taxi arrive in New York and by 1899 over 100 electric cars were in use in the city.

The Porsche P1 was launched in 1898. It achieved a range of 50 miles from its 3bhp electric motor and a top speed of 22mph.



Quite a remarkable landmark came in 1899 when a Belgian-made electric car became the first road vehicle to travel at more than 62mph. This new land speed record would stand until 1902 when it was broken by a steam powered car.

Although interest in electric cars grew steadily in this period, the production successes of petrol-powered cars, fuelled largely by Henry Ford, consequentially meant customers were drawn to those as a far cheaper motoring option.

There subsequently followed a period of drought for electric car research and development, reignited in the 1960s and 1970s as consumers pressed for the need for alternatively-fuelled vehicles to reduce the costly environemtal effects caused by conventional exhaust fumes.

Today, huge investment is made across the automotive industry into creating and developing electric vehicles for the mass market. Reflecting the growing interest in, and requirement for, more electric vehicles on our roads.

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