How the electric car has progressed through the years

With mankind’s effect on the environment becoming more of a concern than ever before, scientists and inventors have been working hard to develop alternative methods of using energy without further damaging the planet.

One of the biggest areas of development so far has been the electric car.  Here we reveal how this vehicle has progressed throughout the years and why it’s a real possibility that electric vehicles could eventually outnumber the cars we’re used to seeing on the road today.

Do you know how old the electric car is?

Should you buy an electric car? Ask The Car Expert!Although the electric car is generally thought of as a very new concept, its history dates back as far as 1828. Who invented the very first electric car is uncertain, as several inventors have been given credit, but it wasn’t until the second half of the 19th century that more practical and successful (albeit quite crude) vehicles were built. At this time, non-rechargeable electric cells and batteries were used and whilst this massively improved the concept of these vehicles, it was clear that better capacity storage batteries were needed in order to help electric cars become more practical.

early electric car invented by Thomas ParkerIn the late 1800s, France and Britain increasingly supported the development of electric cars. Gradually, America and other countries around the world started taking an interest and in 1897 the first commercial electric vehicle application was established as a fleet of New York City taxis were built. Two years later, a Belgian-built electric racing car set the world record for land speed at 68 mph.

By the 1900s, cars were available in multiple forms – steam, electric and gasoline and they were becoming increasingly popular. Unbelievably however, in 1899 and 1900, electric cars outsold all other types of cars in America. An example of what your average electric car would have been like around this time is the 1902 Phaeton which had a range of 18 miles, a top speed of 14 mph and cost around $2,000.

Between the years of 1930 and 1990, there was a decline in the interest and production of electric vehicles. With better road systems being introduced, there was suddenly a need for longer-range vehicles. Furthermore, the discovery of Texas crude oil reduced the price of gasoline in America and the initiation of mass production by Henry Ford meant that the cars we drive around today suddenly became much more affordable.


By the 1960s however, it became apparent that alternative fueled vehicles would be needed in order to reduce the problems of exhaust emissions. In 1964, the first Battronic electric truck was developed – it was capable of speeds of up to 25 mph, had a range of 62 miles and cost around £2,500.

By the 1990s, electric cars started to develop far more capabilities than people were traditionally used to and many were even left impressed. The Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck had a range of 60 miles and could be recharged in less than seven hours and in 1994, a Solectria Geo Metro cruised over 200 miles on a single charge using nickel metal hydride batteries.

The 21st century – renewed interest in electric vehicles

In the 2000s, a number of factors have contributed to the gradually increasing popularity of electric cars. The recession and higher oil prices meant that people abandoned their fuel-inefficient cars for smaller hybrid and electric vehicles, heavier road tax charges have been introduced and evidence of the impact humans have had on the environment have led people to become more contentious about what they’re driving.

Furthermore, electric cars are finally becoming as desirable as more traditional cars when it came to speed and distance they can travel. They were generating such an interest that in the beginning of 2013 it was revealed that by the end of the previous year, the uptake of low-carbon cars had nearly doubled in the first nine months and incredibly, they outstripped growth in the wider motor industry.

With the cost of electric cars falling, the government introducing funding and incentives for those who choose to go electric, some almighty impressive vehicles being launched and a recent land speed record of 204 mph recently being set, it’s not hard to see why it looks like the electric car has an important role to play in the future of driving.


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Stuart Masson
Stuart Massonhttps://www.thecarexpert.co.uk/
Stuart is the Editorial Director of our suite of sites: The Car Expert, The Van Expert and The Truck Expert. Originally from Australia, Stuart has had a passion for cars and the automotive industry for over thirty years. He spent a decade in automotive retail, and now works tirelessly to help car buyers by providing independent and impartial advice.

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  1. I’d love an electric car (Tesla Model S, in case you were wondering) but it wouldn’t be the only car I drove. I think the stress of trying to find a charging point on a road trip would just be a bit too much for me. However, the infrastructure is there and an electric car would be perfect for short trips.

What are your thoughts? Let us know below.