Electric vehicles (EVs) have been around for almost 200 years! Although, they were very different to the Tesla’s, Renault Zoe’s and Nissan Leaf’s we see today.
Past – 1828 to 1996
EVs can be traced back as far as 1828, when Ányos Jedlik, a Hungarian inventor, built an electromagnetic device. This device was fitted to a small model car, which Jedlik designed, and consisted of a DC motor (Direct Current), a stator, a rotor and commutator. Although, not an electric car, the device is still used today.
It was not until 1832 that the first full sized electric vehicle was built. The electric powered carriage was created by Scottish inventor Robert Anderson and was powered by non-rechargeable power cells. Not the car we know today but a dramatic change to the horse-drawn carriages of the day.
The first electric vehicle, that was practical and not a model or carriage, was created in 1835 by Thomas Davenport. Powered by the first American DC electric motor, this was the first of its kind and apart from the invention of the rechargeable lead-acid storage battery in 1859, things on the EV front went quiet. The invention of the first electric production car that used rechargeable batteries in London in 1884 and a small electric carriage in the USA in 1889, launched electric cars into the mainstream. The popularity of electric cars increased dramatically, and they soon became the preferred method of transport. They were easy to drive, quiet and produced less pollutants. The success in the USA gained the attention of some very influential people including, Thomas Edison who quickly began to study better ways to build electric batteries.
Fun fact! Porsche’s first car was electric. Ferdinand Porsche built the Egger-Lohner C.2 Phaeton in 1898. Powered by motors mounted onto the wheel hubs to drive the vehicle. Not quite the same as the modern day Taycan!
After its launch, Porsche worked on the hub mounted motor, later attaching it to a car with a traditional engine, creating the world’s first hybrid vehicle in 1900. This was short lived however, when in 1908 the Ford Model T, made cars affordable and ended the electric cars popularity. When petrol prices increased in the 60’s and 70’s, electric alternatives once again grew in popularity. This created the ‘second generation of electric cars’. As new technologies started to emerge, batteries improved, and manufacturers started making electric vehicles. The biggest breakthrough came in 1973 when M. Stanley Whittingham invented the world’s first rechargeable lithium-ion battery. The same thing you find in your mobile phone and EV’s today.
Memorable electric vehicles
Lunar Roving Vehicle
Commonly known as the 'Moon Buggy', the Lunar Roving Vehicle is a battery-powered four-wheeled rover used on the Moon in the last three missions of the American Apollo program.
Milk floats have been around since 1951. The specifically designed battery powred floats replaced the original horse drawn carts. The small battery did mean a top speed of 10 to 16 miles per hour
Present – 1997 – 2021
The first mass produced, and possibly the most well known as being the first electric vehicle was the Toyota Prius. Introduced in 1997, it sparked the electric vehicle revolution and many manufacturers followed suit in the following years.
The hybrid vehicle market also began to boom as both plug-in and self-charging hybrid vehicles boasted the economical benefits of an electric whilst having the range of a more traditional petrol or diesel car. Although now certain brands, like Tesla, offer similar miles per change to that of comparable petrol or diesel cars.
The original cult like following has grown into the mainstream. Helped by many environmental factors and Governments pushing for a greener and more sustainable approach to living. This has helped to get us to where we are today.
Future - 2022 and beyond
As early as next year, big names such as Jaguar and Audi will be launching new, purpose built EV’s. Many manufacturers will be launching EV’s under an electric-only sub-brand. This includes VW, with their I.D badge and Mercedes will be launched under the EQ banner. Porsche have also launched a range of electric powered cars, with Volvo also showing major plans to go electric.
The infrastructure that will allow us to go fully electric will see around 2.8 million electric vehicle charging points be installed by 2035. With car battery ranges increasing and batteries being larger, rapid and fast charging points will be needed to keep us moving.
Looking further into the future, could autonomous vehicles become a common sight? With brands like Tesla pioneering this new technology, the rest of the industry is really taking notice. Alongside autonomous cars, supercar brands like Lamborghini have launched the Terzo Millennio as a concept car. Replacing the iconic V12 with a fully electric motor. If Lamborghini are thinking about going electric, who knows what the future will hold.
The future electric vehicles will no doubt take us further, for longer, and faster than we have been before.