11 Sep 20

Everything you could ever wish to know about the history of electric vehicles!

The electric car revolution has well and truly begun, but vehicles powered by electricity aren’t as new as you might think... So, where did it all begin and how have we got to where we are now?

Let’s start by jumping back 192 years to 1828 where Hungarian inventor, engineer and physicist, Ányos Jedlik, considered by many to be the unsung father of the dynamo and electric motor, invented a revolutionary type of electric motor creating a small model car powered by his motorised invention.

Four years later Scottish inventor, Robert Anderson was credited in Britain with developing the first electric carriage in 1832, half a century before the invention of the gasoline-fueled automobile. 

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More developments followed in the 19th century when the likes of Thomas Parker, who was involved in the electrification of the London Underground, built the first electric production car that used his own specially designed high-capacity rechargeable batteries in 1884, and then in 1897 Walter Bersey designed a fleet of electric battery-powered taxis in London. These were given the nickname "Hummingbirds" due to the humming noise they made.

Everything you could want to know about the history of EVs!

In 1898, Ferdinand Porsche presented the “Egger-Lohner electric vehicle” known as the “P1” for short, the world’s first Porsche design. Hub-mounted motors drove the wheels meaning the first Porsche car was electric! Porsche wouldn’t make another until 2019 and the hugely impressive, highly regarded Porsche Taycan.

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At the end of the century on April 29, 1899, a Belgian race-car driver called Camille Jenatzy was the first driver to go faster than 100 kilometers (62 miles) per hour, in an electric vehicle he developed himself called “La Jamais Contente” meaning “Never Satisfied”. A statement that remains true for many racing drivers today! 

At the beginning of the 20th century a surge in popularity of electric cars hit the United States with many US homes wired for electricity and influential inventors like Thomas Edison were working on projects that would revolutionise the ways people lived. At this point in time, 38% of cars in the US were powered by electricity.

Jump forward to 1971 and Electric Vehicles go stratospheric! The first off-planet automobile ride took place in an electric car on the surface of the moon in 1971. Named the Lunar Roving Vehicle but affectionately known as the ‘Moon buggy’, this electric vehicle was developed by Boeing and General Motors subsidiary Delco Electronics.

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After nearly a century of oil-powered vehicles emitting pollutants and damaging the environment, the Clean Air Act Amendment and the Energy Policy Act of 1992 resulted in car manufacturers focusing increasingly on alternative-fuel vehicles. 

In 1997, GM introduced the EV1, making more than 1,000 of the sleek two-seaters and leasing them to customers in California and the Southwest as a market study. In the same year, the first mass-produced hybrids also went on sale, the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight.

2008 brought with it the development of the Tesla Roadster, the first highway legal serial-production all-electric car to use lithium-ion battery cells, with a range of more than 320km (200 miles) per charge. Impressive considering that was 12 years ago! 

In 2010, Nissan made history by introducing the Nissan Leaf which would become the world's top selling plug-in electric car for almost a decade and is still going strong today with an updated, all-new version released earlier this year. 

Electric vehicles broke new ground in 2014 with the debut Formula E race in Beijing. The first single-seater all-electric championship has gone from strength to strength and has since become home to some of the world’s largest manufacturers who use the data and developments learned from racing to directly advance their road offerings, improving performance and things like range, efficiency and charging time. 

front on view of a Formula E Generation 1 racing car

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Echoing the ‘La Jamais Contente’ 1899 speed record, VW showcased the record breaking performance capabilities of EVs by setting a new record in 2018 on the century-old Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, driving the 12.42 miles in 7 minutes and 57 seconds, beating Sébastien Loeb’s 8:13s 2013 record. 

So where are EVs at now?

The last five years have seen a 565 percent global increase in electric cars on the road, and by the end of 2020 in Europe, manufacturers will be offering more than 214 models. According to analysis, by 2025 electric vehicles will make up 22% of the vehicles produced in the EU, and close to 50% by 2030.

Regulations and environmental commitments around the world are marking the end of petrol and diesel-powered car sales, in some countries as soon as 2030. There’s never been more focus on electric vehicles and we’re likely to see rapid development and growth in EVs over the coming years.

The future is exciting, the future is electric. 

How Formula E, its teams and its partners marked #WorldEVDay | #PositivelyCharged