History of the electric vehicle

History of the electric vehicle

The history of the electric vehicle began in the mid-1800s. An electrical vehicle held the vehicular land speed record until around 1900. The high cost and low top speed of electric vehicles compared to later internal combustion vehicles caused a worldwide decline in their use, and only relatively recently have they re-emerged into the public eye.

Origins and developments

From what we understand today, electric motive power started in 1834 when Thomas Davenport of New Hampshire built a carriage, running on rails that used a non-rechargeable battery. Viable rechargeable batteries did not come into existence till the late 1840s, with the development of the lead acid battery. In England a patent was granted in 1840 for the use of rails as conductors of electric current, and similar American patents were issued to Lilley and Colten in 1847. Between 1832 and 1839 (the exact year is uncertain), Professor Stratingh of Groningen, Holland, invented the first crude electric carriage, powered by non-rechargeable Primary cells.

Electric cars started to become popular because they were quieter and ran more smoothly than other cars. After improvements to storage batteries, electric cars started to flourish. However, these were mainly in Europe only. It was not until 1890 that America paid any attention to the growing technology. The two different electric autos built by A. L. Ryker and William Morrison in 1891 brought the electric car to the spotlight in America.

The first commercial application of an electric car came in 1897 when the Electric Carriage & Wagon Company of Philadelphia built a fleet of New York taxis. Until 1899, electric cars held the land speed record. At the turn of the twentieth century, they were produced by Anthony Electric, Baker Motor Vehicle, Detroit Electric, Woods Motor Vehicle and others and at one point in history outsold gasoline-powered vehicles.

Electrified trains were used for coal transport as the motors did not use precious oxygen in the mines. Switzerland's lack of natural fossil resources forced the rapid electrification of their rail network. In 1916, a man by the name of Woods invented the first hybrid car, combining an electric motor and an internal combustion engine.

The early twentieth century was the height for the American electric car. Many factors contributed to the downfall of the electric car, but the final blow seems to be the production of the gasoline car by Henry Ford. His mass-produced cars cost half as much as the average electric car. The electric car was dead until the 1960s.

The 1947 invention of the point-contact transistor marked the beginning of a new era for EV technology. Within a decade, Henney Coachworks had joined forces with National Union Electric Company, the makers of Exide batteries, to produce the first modern electric car based on transistor technology, the Henney Kilowatt, produced in 36-volt and 72-volt configurations. The 72-volt models had a top speed approaching 96 km/h (60 mph) and could travel nearly an hour on a single charge. Despite the improved practicality of the Henney Kilowatt over previous electric cars, it was too expensive, and production was terminated in 1961. Even though the Henney Kilowatt never reached mass production volume, their transistor-based electric technology paved the way for modern EVs.

The 2008 world petroleum crisis renewed interest in alternative fuels. Many companies decided to renew the electric car for uses like mail trucks and other service vehicles. Governments around the world pushed for fuel reform to protect the environment. Many laws influenced large automakers to start producing electric car prototypes, but costs prohibited them from going to the market until recently. Many models like the Toyota Prius have become extremely popular.

In 2008, Mitsubishi Motors and PSA Peugeot Citroen are going to collaborate in technology for electric vehicles as the global race to build green cars heats up. [ [http://www.mywire.com/pubs/AFP/2008/06/17/6691220?pbl=249 MyWire | AFP: Mitsubishi, Peugeot may team up in electric cars: statement ] ]



France saw a large development of battery-electric vehicles in the 1990s; the most successful vehicle was the electric Peugeot Partner/Citroën Berlingo, of which several thousand have been built, mostly for fleet use in municipalities and by Electricité de France.

Three partners (Heuliez, Dassault and Hydro-Québec) joined efforts and launched a company named _fr. "Societe des Vehicules Electriques", which built several versions of the Cleanova.


In Italy, all private ZEVs are exempt from taxes and have a substantial insurance fee reduction. In most cities the trash collection is performed by BEV trucks. Furthermore access to certain city centres is restricted for internal combustion engines (like in Rome) enabling the use of electric vehicles (small transporters and buses).


There are two electric vehicle manufacturing facilities in Norway. While Lars Ringdal produced the first Piv electric vehicle prototype in 1973 at the onset of the 1973 energy crisis, it was not until 1990 that Lar's son Jan Otto Ringdal founded PIVCO (Personal Independent Vehicle Company). This was the basis for the production of the Think brand of electric vehicles.

The Kewet electric vehicle was originally produced in Denmark, starting in 1991. In 1998 production rights were acquired by a Norwegian firm, and production moved to Norway. This vehicle is currently sold under the brand name Buddy.

In Norway, zero-emission vehicles are tax-exempt and are allowed to use the bus lane, pay no tolls on toll roads, and can park free in municipal parking lots.


In Switzerland, battery-electric vehicles are popular with private users. From 1985 to about 1995 there was an annual kind of nation-wide race for solar powered vehicles called the Tour de Sol. This resulted in the development of stylish and useful vehicles, mostly one and two-seaters with three wheels. Some vehicles were powered exclusively by on-board solar cells, some additionally by human power, but most used primarily indirect solar energy fed into the national electricity grid by stationary solar installations. There is a national network of publicly accessible charging points, called [http://www.twikeklub.ch/lemnet/index.htm Park & Charge] , which also covers part of Germany and Austria.

;United Kingdom

For much of the 20th century, the UK was the world's largest user of electric road vehicles, as a result of a regulation stating that delivery vehicles making repeated stops in housing areas must be non-polluting. In 1968 there were 45000 such small electric vehicles in service. [ [http://www.cgl.uwaterloo.ca/~racowan/escape.html Escaping Lock-in: the Case of the Electric Vehicle] ]

In most UK cities, low-speed electric milk floats (milk trucks) are used for the home delivery of fresh milk. An active hobbyist group called the Battery Vehicle Society regularly organises racing events for mostly home-built vehicles. The inventor Clive Sinclair developed an extremely cheap, small three-wheeler called the Sinclair C5. This generated an enormous amount of publicity but not enough sales to continue the development.

In London, electrically powered vehicles are exempt from the congestion charge, although BEVs need to be registered and pay an annual £10 fee. With a £8 payable daily charge, this could provide a potential annual saving of up to £2000 - and is the reason that most UK BEVs are currently sold in London. The most popular vehicle at the moment is the REVA G-Wiz, 750 being on the road as of May 2007.


External links

*http://www.econogics.com/ev/evhistry.htm (Extensive)
* [http://www.hybrid-vehicle.org/hybrid-vehicle-history.html Hybrid-Vehicle.org: Early Electric Cars]
* [http://sloan.stanford.edu/EVonline/schallen.htm Analysis by Richard H. Schallenberg for the IEEE Transactions on Education]
* [http://sloan.stanford.edu/EVonline/kirsch.htm 1997 Disseration by David A. Kirsch, Stanford University]
* [http://sloan.stanford.edu/EVonline/rae.htm 1955 business analysis of early electric vehicles by John B. Rae, Associate Professor of History, MIT]
* [http://www.didik.com/ev%5Fhist.htm History and Directory of Electric Cars from 1834 - 1987]
* [http://inventors.about.com/library/weekly/aacarselectrica.htm Short Electric, and other Vehicle History]
* [http://mikes.railhistory.railfan.net/r066.html Mikes Railway History, 1935] Electric Traction
*http://www.hybridcars.com/history.html some Electric information as well.
*SVE website: http://www.dassault.fr/filiale.php?docid=82
* [http://www.ElectricCarSociety.com/ Electric Car Society]

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