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When was the first electric car made?

22nd July 2021

Despite popular belief, the first electric car was made in 1884 – even though its popularity and environmental benefits have only recently come to fruition in the 21st century. The EV has been silently gathering momentum for years – dating back to the late 19th century, where correlations between electricity being viewed as a conceivable means of propulsion came into play. This guide looks to explore the history of electric cars, including where they were invented and who invented them, as well as a brief timeline from then to present day.

History of electric cars

The electric car, despite common belief, is not a new development – but the credit of these vehicles is not easy to pinpoint.

  • 1828 – Anyos Jedlik

The first hint of an electric car was developed by Anyos Jedlik. Jedlik invented an electromagnetic device which was fitted to a small model car, consisting of a DC motor, namely stator, rotator and commutator.

  • 1831 – Robert Anderson

Then, in 1831, Anderson created an electric-powered carriage with non-rechargeable power cells – which, although isn’t deemed as a vehicle by today’s standards, did still have a dramatic impact on the horse-drawn carriages of that era. This was the first crude electric vehicle, but it wasn’t recognised until the 1870s or later as a practical form of transport.

  • 1835 – Thomas Davenport

Davenport was well-known in the EV world for creating the first battery-powered electric motor in 1835. He then used this motor to operate a small model car on a short section of track, which is directly credited for paving the way for the future of electric cars on roads – as this locomotive was the first practical EV to be developed.

  • 1859 – Gaston Planté

Planté then invented yet another model electric car, but also invented commercial, rechargeable lead-acid storage batteries in 1859 – which then directly led to the later invention of the electric vehicle itself.

  • 1884 – Thomas Parker

Parker then went on to create the first production electric car, which was then built in 1884 in London. This development used Parker’s own high-capacity rechargeable batteries. Following on from this, in 1889 – 1891, William Morrison also introduced another very simple electric vehicle to the US.

The success of both of these inventions catapulted electric vehicles into becoming a more mainstream method of transportation.

  • 1900 - 1912

Due to their quiet nature and ease to drive, electric vehicles actually became the preferred method of transport during the early 1900s – meaning that between this period of time, 1/3 of all vehicles on US roads were powered by electricity. This era is thought to be the ‘heyday’ for electric vehicles.

  • 1901

During this ‘heyday’ period, the world’s first hybrid electric car was invented by Ferdinand Porsche – founder of sports car namesake. This vehicle was powered by electricity and named as the Lohner-Porsche Mixte.  

  • 1908

Henry Ford then introduced the world to the Ford Model T – which was then recognised at the world’s first (but also affordable) motor car. With the advantage of being easier to refuel and a cheaper alternative, this introduction ultimately set the tone for the rest of the motoring industry to follow suit – leading to the popularity of electric vehicles slowing down, and the rise of gas-powered motors propelling forwards.

Modern day electric vehicles

Between the early 1900s and now, interest in electric vehicles has fluctuated – for example, in 1971, NASA’s Lunar rover was the first electric unmanned vehicle to drive on the moon, which drove awareness for electric vehicles. However, due to limited performance and range, this caused interest to fade again and gas-powered engines to continue their reign.

Nowadays, electric vehicles are at the forefront of most manufacturer’s decision making for future makes and models. The rise in electric cars is also expected to elevate further by the future goal of petrol and diesel cars to be banned from sale as soon as 2030 – which is a large switch-up for the motoring industry.

That’s why, here at Merityre Specialists, we’re prepared and ready for this change. Our experts are already on hand to provide motoring and maintenance checks on electric vehicles at our branches. Whatever electric vehicle you have, we can take care of it. Locate your nearest Merityre Specialists garage now for more information.