March 24, 2023
A Ride Through the History of EVs: From the 19th Century to Today
Welcome to an engaging exploration of the history of electric vehicles (EVs), packed with statistics and trends.
From their modest roots in the 19th century to their recent surge in popularity, we’ll delve into the fascinating story of these eco-friendly machines.
So, buckle up — and let’s embark on an inspiring ride through time!
The First Spark: Early EVs in the 19th Century
Our journey begins in the 1830s with Robert Anderson, a Scottish inventor who created the first EV. Anderson’s battery-powered contraption could travel a mere 2 miles on a single charge. The invention of the rechargeable battery by Gaston Planté in the 1870s paved the way for more practical EVs, including the Thomas Parker Electric Carriage.
In the 1880s, British inventor Thomas Parker developed an electric carriage powered by his own high-capacity rechargeable batteries. Parker’s creation showcased the potential of EVs and helped to drive their adoption in Europe.
As a cleaner and more efficient alternative to gasoline-powered cars, EVs gained traction despite their short range and high cost. By the early 1900s, over 20,000 EVs navigated the streets of Paris alone. In fact, at the beginning of the 20th century, nearly one-third of all vehicles on U.S. roads were electric.
A Temporary Setback: Gasoline-Powered Vehicles Take Center Stage
The early 1900s witnessed the ascent of gasoline-powered cars, offering increased efficiency, longer range, and lower production costs.
The introduction of Ford’s Model T in 1908, which had a range of around 200 miles and was priced far lower than EVs, helped shift the balance in favor of gasoline cars. Consequently, the EV market began to decline, and by the 1920s, a mere few thousand EVs remained on U.S. roads.
The Resurgence: A New Beginning for EVs (1970s-1990s)
The 1973 oil crisis prompted a renewed interest in alternative modes of transportation, including EVs. In response, the U.S. government began to invest in EV research, spending over $100 million between 1976 and 1980.
Although still hampered by limited range and scarce charging stations, EVs found a second chance in the spotlight. However, their popularity ebbed once more in the 1980s as oil prices dropped and gasoline vehicles improved in efficiency.
The Modern Electric Revolution: 2000s-Present
The lithium-ion battery’s development in the 2000s rekindled enthusiasm for EVs, delivering more efficient and longer-range batteries. Government incentives and regulations worldwide encouraged the adoption of EVs, leading to a significant increase in sales.
By 2010, the global EV market surpassed 100,000 units, and by 2020, over 10 million EVs were cruising the world’s roads.
Enter the Icons: General Motors EV1, Nissan Leaf, and Tesla Model 3
Our journey would be incomplete without mentioning some of the game-changing EVs that have shaped the industry:
General Motors EV1 (1996-1999)
The first mass-produced EV of the modern era, the EV1 featured a lead-acid battery, offering a range of 70-100 miles and a top speed of 80 mph. Only 1,117 units were produced, and the majority were eventually recalled and destroyed by GM. (This pioneering EV featured in the documentary film Who Killed the Electric Car?)
Nissan Leaf (2010-present)
The world’s first mass-produced all-electric car, the current Leaf boasts a range of up to 226 miles, thanks to its lithium-ion battery, and a top speed of 89 mph. As of 2021, over 500,000 units have been sold globally, making it one of the best-selling EVs of all time.
Tesla Model 3 (2017-present)
A game-changer in the EV market, the Model 3 offers a range of up to 358 miles, accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in just 3.1 seconds, and has a top speed of 162 mph. In 2020, the Model 3 became the best-selling EV globally, with more than 800,000 units sold.
The Road Ahead: The Future of EVs
As we reflect on the history of EVs, it’s clear that they’ve come a long way since their humble beginnings. With advances in technology and a global focus on sustainability, the future is promising for electric transportation.
As of 2021, EVs represented around 5% of global new car sales, with projections suggesting that this figure could rise to over 50% by 2040. Battery costs, which have historically been a major barrier to EV adoption, have fallen dramatically, dropping by around 90% over the past decade.
We can expect further improvements in EV technology, such as 500+ mile ranges, ultrafast charging speeds capable of replenishing battery life in mere minutes, and even more efficient batteries utilizing solid-state technology.
These innovations will only continue to propel EVs into the mainstream — solidifying their role in our quest for a greener, more sustainable future.
Craig J Todd – Freelance writer with a passion for tech, trends and simplicity.