The first electric car was invented in 1832.  But by 1912 it became obsolete.  Learn about EV history and the history of how Tesla Motors made the electric vehicle a reality again today.

A Brief History of EVs (Electric Vehicles)

EV History



The First Cars Were Electric

Ironically, EV’s (electric vehicles) were invented in 1832!  The first practical EV was built in 1835.  These used regular batteries, so you couldn’t recharge them.  In 1859, that changed when a french physicist invented the rechargeable battery.  The first successful electric vehicle was built by William Morrison in Des Moines, Iowa.  By 1895 a variety of different manufacturers exhibited electric cars in Chicago and four years later, the first electric taxi appeared roaming the streets of New York City.

So what happened?   We started on the right foot creating and using a vehicle that would have change history as we know it.  It wouldn’t have completely removed our carbon footprint, but it would have reduced it by a substantial amount.  According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), in 2006, 1/3 of all pollution was caused by gasoline-powered vehicles.

Gasoline-Fueled Cars Begin to Appear

But let’s get back to the history.  At this point in history, gasoline-powered vehicles were
starting to appear, but electric cars didn’t smell bad, and you could just start them; you didn’t have to use a hand crank to get them going.  Also, there were no gears.  Shifting gears on a gasoline-powered car was not easy back then, so electric cars were most popular.   In 1908 Henry Ford introduced the assembly line that enabled Ford to mass produce cars, unlike any other manufacturer in that point in history.  But it wasn’t until 1912  when the first practical electric starter was invented that began to change everything; no more hand crank!  Ironically, the peak of sales in electric cars was that very same year.

By 1920 the electric car was no longer considered to be a practical vehicle.  It’s range was limited compared to gasoline-powered cars and so was its horsepower.  The rest is history. 

Congress Gets Involved

Let’s fast-forward 46 years.  In 1966, Congress introduced a bill recommending electric vehicles as an alternative to gasoline-powered vehicles.   A poll even demonstrated that as
many as 33 million Americans were interested in  electric cars!  By 1970, oil prices started escalating.  Inventors began tinkering with electric cars and CitiCar produced an EV that could go 30mph and travel up to 40 miles (in warm weather).   In 1975, the US Postal Service bought 350 electric Jeeps from American Motors as a test, and 1 year later, the Congress passed the Electric Hybrid Vehicle Research, Development, and Demonstration Act intending to restart the electric hybrid vehicle market

EVs Attract Corporate America

But it wasn’t till 1988 that a major automobile manufacturer, namely, GM, designs the EV1 and manufactures it and leases it from 1996 to 1999.    Even a 2nd version of the EV1 was created and leased from 2000-2003.  Initially, the EV1 had a real range of 60 miles, and later 80-100 miles.  The second
generation had an improved range of 100-140 miles with NiMH batteries.    This car required a special charger that had to be installed in your home.  People who used this car loved it.  Sadly, GM decided to terminate their EV program and in a mystery that is discussed in  a film titled, “Who Killed the Electric Car”, collected all cars from their lessors and destroyed them.

EV1 Television Commercials

GM EV1 Recalled

An Informative EV1 Video

Edison admires an electric car