Electric Cars History

Since curiosity and tinkering were the principal means of bringing most early vehicle technologies to the marketplace, it is hard to tell who invented the very first EV. Several inventors have been credited and it would be impossible to name them all.

In 1828, Hungarian, Ányos Jedlik invented a small-scale model car powered by an electric motor that he designed. Sometime around 1833, Robert Anderson of Scotland invented a crude electric-powered carriage. In 1835, Professor Stratingh of Groningen, Holland, designed a small-scale electric car and his assistant Christopher Becker built it.

Thomas Davenport, a blacksmith from Brandon, Vermont, built a small-scale electric car in 1835. Davenport is credited as the inventor of the first American-built DC electric motor. By 1842 Davenport had built a more practical electric passenger vehicle and was among the first to use (non-rechargeable) batteries to give greater range to his electric vehicle. In the 50 years that followed, a host of inventors around the world presented their refinements to the electric vehicle, but better batteries were the key element to get industry to the place where it could offer mass produced electric vehicles for general use by the public.

A hundred years ago, electrical engineer and physicist, Nikola Tesla was filing hundreds of patent applications on electric technologies. All tolled, he was awarded 1200 patents. Some of his inventions have not yet been introduced to the public because they were so far ahead of their time.  In case you didn’t know, he was the man responsible for bringing AC electric power to the world, as a contemporary with Thomas Edison. Had the world been ready for the innovations that Tesla was bringing to the table, we would be living in a far different technological environment today.

It was in the summer of 1931, outside the Pierce-Arrow factory in Buffalo, NY, not long after the great stock market crash of 1929. Tesla demonstrated to company executives and to the public what an electric car would look like, as he rolled down the road in a new Pierce-Arrow, having replaced its gasoline engine with an 80hp electric motor. He was reported to have driven it for a week at speeds up to 90 mph. Why didn’t the idea become popular? Timing. The time was not right for the public to buy innovative technologies and investors were not willing to risk bankrolling a technology that might fail.

Today, a new automobile manufacturer has taken the Tesla name as its trademark and has boldly stepped up to become the first major producer of electric vehicles made for highway use. It is no great surprise that this new automobile manufacturer was born in Silicon Valley in the heart of America’s high tech community. The timing of Tesla Motors entry into the electric car market couldn’t be better. If you’re really looking for a green car, take a good look at Tesla to get behind the wheel of a serious EV.

The major obstacle to the success of Electric Cars was the battery. First, it was the prohibitive cost of the battery that pushed the EV out of the realm of consideration. Secondly, the size and weight of the battery that was so objectionable. New battery construction and new battery materials are reducing both space and weight displacement. The third objection has been the range of travel before the battery needs to be recharged. Again, reduction in space and weight displacement, along with superior construction and material selection has increased the range and strength of the battery. The fourth objection was the charging time, which has also been answered by the same methods. The improvements in these four areas are making today’s EV a viable alternative to the internal combustion engine.

General Motors is now presenting us with the 2011 Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid EV. Chrysler, however, appears to be wavering and pulling back to see how successful other manufacturers will fare before they jump in to the EV market. Ford is making a major push to have its EV models ready to debut for 2011. Below are prototypes for the Chevy Volt, Dodge Zeo and Ford Focus EV. It remains to be seen whether they will have the same general appeal that the flashy Tesla Roadster has. Marketing and public perception will rule in this race for EV dominance.


Other EV pages: Tesla Roadster ~ Tesla Sedan ~ Nissan Leaf ~ You Can Buy Now ~ Coming Soon ~

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