Before Nikola Tesla revolutionized the world with his engineering gizmo in 1887, an alternating current electrical supply system, humanity has been fiddling with electric vehicles. The first electric vehicle ran off a small electric motor, both of which were invented by Hungarian inventor Ányos Jedlik in 1828.
It wasn’t long after when other inventors joined in similar endeavors, including a blacksmith whose EV operated off electrified tracks and a professor who created a non-rechargeable EV, though none of these were really practical modes of transportation.
Around the late 1840s, electric locomotives arrived on the EV scene, but the battery technology was limited in power and could only travel one and a half miles with a very light load of six tons.
In 1890, US inventor and chemist William Morrison created the 6-passenger EV which achieved a top speed of 14 miles per hour. The invention and media coverage would spur New York City to host more than 60 electric taxis around the 1900s.
In 1903, the first speeding ticket ever given was to a driver of a hybrid EV, a Krieger-made EV with a battery-pack supplemented by a gasoline engine.
Sadly, though, steam power has been popular since the early 1700s, and even spawned an entire industrial revolution from its capability. With coal or wood for steam easily available for steam power vehicles, EVs didn’t really stand a chance.
When the internal combustion engine on the market in the late 1800s, demand for the steam engine started to plummet and the electric vehicle was all but forgotten by the time Henry Ford’s Model A hit the streets in the late 1920s.
Not only were the batteries of the time insufficient for anything but in-city travel, there wasn’t an infrastructure to support the use of EVs. By World War I, the early electric vehicle was dead.
It wasn’t until the 1950s that engineers, usually in collegiate programs, started working on electric vehicles again. The space-race reignited the idea of battery-powered vehicles, as internal combustion or other conventional engines don’t work in space where there’s no air.
To power the vehicles sent to space, engineers had to find an alternative source of energy: batteries and electric motors.
In the 1960s, when demand for anything ‘space-age’ was at an all-time high, a Gallup Poll stated that 36 million Americans were interested in an EV even when they only achieved 40 miles per hour and could go no further than 50 miles on a charge!
Demand remained stagnant for EVs though, and development was kept mainly to collegiate classrooms and research labs. Few electric cars were created in the 60s, but those that were included the GM Urban Electric Car, the AMC Amitron or Electron, the British Henney Kilowatt, and others.
The three lunar rovers the US sent to the moon are not only still there, but the first manned vehicles to drive on the moon and electric vehicles to boot.
In the 1990s, interest was revived as consumers demanded less horsepower and more eco-efficiency from their small and lightweight cars. Most were complete flops because what the consumers thought they wanted, they really didn’t.
It wasn’t until modern times that the electric vehicle has taken main stage as a viable mode of transportation. In 1997, Toyota launched the Prius and it was an instant hit across the globe at a time when gas prices and awareness about carbon emissions were increasing.
While the Honda Insight was the first EV sold in the US since the 1900s, it was the Toyota Prius that made owning a hybrid or pure EV popular.
Since then, most of the major manufacturers have come out with their own electric vehicles.
The Chevrolet Bolt or Volt, Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi iMiEV, Kia Soul, Ford’s Energi series, and many others, are electric or hybrid vehicles that offer a greatly reduced carbon footprint. While EVs have a range between 60 and 200 miles, on average, hybrids can achieve upwards of 400 miles on a tank of gas. The Ford Fusion Energi can achieve an unbelievable 610 miles on a fully charged and fully-filled gas tank!
The Golden Age of electric vehicles has come and we’re seeing more and more development on this technology than ever before. While it’s hard to say where EV technology will take us in the future, it is safe to say that the tech is unlikely to fade from use anytime in the near future.
In 100 years, electric vehicles have been invented, faded as a fad, and come back with a vengeance to be one of the most-researched technologies in the automotive field.
To test drive an electric vehicle, please call or visit your local AutoNation retailer, today!