An overview of electric cars' history

Most people believe electric vehicles are the hype of the last 20 years, but a British scientist actually invented the first electric car in the 1800s. People are now witnessing the second revolution in the electric car (EV) market, as the first one happened 100 years ago. Software development companies are currently engaged in a constant effort to improve the range and efficiency of EVs, and their automotive expertise seems to bring the desired results. Valued at 163.01 billion dollars in 2020, the global electric vehicle market is expected to reach 823.75 billion dollars by 2030.  

The first electric car - unfinished but still

Although it is challenging to pinpoint the EV invention to one author or one country, people started creating a concept around battery-powered vehicles in the 1800s. It is believed that Robert Anderson, a British inventor, designed the first electric car in history between 1832-1839. At that time, the vehicle was used only on short paths as a demonstration, but never actually used on the streets. It was impractical and unfinished, and its unchargeable battery was too heavy for the carriage. Hence, the investors were not interested in the innovative idea.

Practical EVs for the first time - a maritime misfortune

After Gaston Plante invented the rechargeable battery in 1865, further EV development was enabled by the soon-to-be practical use of electric vehicles. In 1884, the British inventor Thomas Parker created the first feasible and efficient electric car with mass production potential. After his prototype was ready, while transporting it with a ship for mass production in Paris, it sank in the English Channel. Although his idea never materialized, he marked a critical moment in EV history. 

38% of the cars on US streets were electric in 1900

The first mass-produced electric car was William Morison’s in 1890. The American chemist invented a four-wheeled, six-passenger EV that could travel at a maximum speed of 14 miles per hour, with a range of up to 100 miles. As a comparison, today’s EVs can exceed 250 miles per hour.  In 1900, 38% of vehicles on United States roads were electric cars. 

What did Porsche, Edison, and Ford have in common in the early 1900s?

Due to their success, investors became increasingly interested in improving EVs. In 1898, Porsche launched a new electric car with a top speed of 22 mph and a range of 50 miles.  

In 1899 a Belgian automaker created the first car with two electric motors that could reach together 67bhp. Additionally, Thomas Edison, who played a pivotal role in introducing electricity to the world, partnered with Henry Ford to study options for a low-cost electric car in 1914.  

With the invention of the hybrid EV in 1901, people could suddenly choose between purely electric cars and hybrids with a rechargeable battery pack and a gas engine. EV popularity reached its peak at that time, but it didn’t last long.

Ford's Model T might have obliterated the early EVs.

In 1903, Henry Ford launched a gasoline-powered car named Model T, which dropped the first blow to the EVs market. Immediately, it was mass-produced, widely available, and affordable, costing $650 versus $1750 for an electric roadster. Electric starters for gasoline-powered cars were introduced by Charles Kettering the same year, reducing the need for hand cranks. And the innovation led to an increase in gasoline-powered vehicle sales. 

Other developments also impacted the decline of EVs. The discovery of Texas crude oil resulted in cheap and readily available gas for rural Americans, and filling stations began popping up everywhere around the country. In comparison, most Americans outside of cities had no access to electricity. Eventually, electric vehicles almost disappeared by 1935, going into constant decline with little technological advancement.  

The return: a new perspective

In the early 1970s, oil prices and gasoline shortages began to rise, and automakers started exploring options for alternative fuel vehicles, including electric cars. That time, Even NASA helped raise the profile of EVs when its electric Lunar rover became the first human-crewed vehicle to drive on the moon in 1971. Still, the typical range of an EV was up to 40 miles before needing to be recharged, showing limited performance. 

Fast forward to the 90s, the interest in electric vehicles in the US began to rise again due to new federal and state regulations regarding air quality. With low gas prices in the late 1990s, many consumers didn’t worry about fuel-efficient vehicles. Still, behind the scenes, scientists and engineers were working to improve EV technology. 

The interest in electric vehicles today was sparked by two significant events: the world’s first mass-produced hybrid electric vehicle in 2000, the Toyota Prius, and the announcement in 2006 that a small startup, Tesla Motors, would design a luxury electric sports car that could travel more than 200 miles on a single charge. Tesla has won wide acclaim in the auto industry with its vehicles, and Prius has remained the world’s most popular hybrid during the past decade. 

E-vehicles: the present and the future

With the first electric car invented, there was no doubt that the idea was revolutionary. Still, it took 190 years for people to realize how beneficial electric motors are to the environment. It is only a matter of time before there will be more EVs on the streets than gasoline-powered vehicles. 

While EVs are already eco-friendly and energy efficient, software development companies continue to expand their expertise in automotive technology to reduce costs during purchase and maintenance, providing comfort and safety at the same time.  

Find out more about automotive engineering services at AROBS Transilvania Software and work with us! 

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