Contrary to what many people may first think, electric vehicles have been around for quite some time. With a long and progressive history involving numerous inventors, prototypes and bumps in the road, EVs now have the technological capabilities to become the future.
Scroll through our electric vehicle timeline to find out how things have evolved from the very first known electric model to the revolutionary EVs that we see on our roads today.
The first crude electric vehicle was developed by Scottish inventor, Robert Anderson.
Siegfried Marcus, a German inventor, developed the first widely accepted ‘car’. This automobile carried an internal combustion engine which was powered by gasoline. The car was modified and improved over the years, featuring brakes, a clutch and steering, adapting more to the car as we know it today.
The first practical production of the electric car was built in London by British inventor, Thomas Parker. It was powered by specially designed rechargeable high-capacity batteries, however this was changed and modified over the decade.
The Ford Model T was the ‘world’s first production vehicle’, developed by German designer, Karl Benz. It was mass produced in the early 1900’s under the Ford production line. However, the model had its difficulties, taking great force to change gears and start the engine. The cars were also loud, and fumes were unpleasant to be around.
German inventor, Andreas Flocken, developed The Flocken Elektrowagen in Coburg.
P1, the first Porsche built was an early hybrid by Ferdinand Porsche.
The ElectroBat, the first successful electric automobile was developed by mechanical engineer Henry G. Morris and Pedro G. Salom in Philadelphia.
Walter C. Bersey had a fleet of electric taxis, named Bersey Cabs, which were introduced in London. The cabs had an electric driving range of 50 miles, which was perfect for city driving.
Henry Ford and inventor of the light bulb, Thomas Edison, worked together to explore options for low-cost electric cars.
Ford and Edison invested over $1.4 million, the equivalent of $34 million today. However, the mass production of the Model T took off, with its low cost of $650 in 1912 (equivalent to $1,750 today) it was much cheaper than any electric vehicle. The inventors found it difficult to create a battery strong enough to power an automobile. These factors wiped out electric vehicles until the 70’s.
The electric car industry effectively disappeared due to range constraints on vehicles and the discovery of affordable gasoline.
Oil shortages crippled Japan in the post-war era from 1940-1950, however there was no shortage of electricity and Nissan used this to their advantage to develop their first EV, Nissan Tama. With an electric range of 96.3km, the Tama reached top speeds of 35.2km/h.
An electric car powered by a self-charging battery technology is explored by American Motors Corporation (AMC) and Sonotone Corporation.
The rise of petrol prices and cost of living crisis meant manufacturers once again explored alternatives to combustion engines.
The EV1, based on a concept called the Impact in 1990, was developed by General Motors to become the first mass-produced electric vehicle. With an electric range of 70-90 miles on a full charge, it took 15 hours to charge!
The first mass produced hybrid, Toyota Prius, was released.
The Tesla Roadster became the first highway legal, serial production all-electric car using a lithium-ion battery as a power source. It had the ability to travel more than 200 miles on a full charge and reach speeds over 120 mph.
Nissan Leaf was introduced in Japan and the US. It had a 24kWh lithium-ion battery pack which powered an 80-kilowatt electric motor, with a range of just over 100 miles.
The first generation Renault Zoe was released, with a 22kWh lithium-ion battery pack and a range of around 130 and 150 miles. In September 2016, Renault introduced a 41 kWh lithium-ion battery which increased the range to 250 miles.
Hyundai IONIQ Electric was the first automobile to be offered with hybrid, plug-in hybrid, all-electric powertrains. Its Blue Hybrid in 2018 had the highest fuel economy rating on the market at 58mpg and covers a range of 1,250km combined.
Hyundai released a 64 kWh battery offering on the electric Kona model. The electric Kona has a 201bhp electric motor (the GTI version can reach 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds) and boasts a range of 300 miles when fully charged.
The first public EV charging lamp post was installed in London, around Bankside and Dulwich.
According to SMMT (The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders), 39,315 new battery electric cars were registered across the UK in March 2022, making up 16.1% of all new car registrations.
The UK will ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans. Hybrids are exempt if they can travel a ‘substantial’ distance fully-electric.