The history of electric cars

history of electric cars

A brief history of Electric cars through the ages.

A gentleman by the name of Robert Anderson built the first known electric car- a very crude thing – in 1832 long before the first internal combustion engined car which took another half century to develop. Practical electric cars really began in about 1880 and were not a product of the USA – they were English.

The bodies of the cars were straight adaptions of horse-drawn carriages which is where we get the name CAR from. Mostly either the driver sat out in the weather whatever it may be, wearing waterproofs and goggles if it were raining, whilst the passengers sat inside, or everyone sat out in the rain.

Electric motors were fairly well developed by 1900, which the petrol engine was not. It has gone down in history that the wife of Henry Ford would not ride in a motor car – dirty smelly things she described them as – and her own car was a Detroit electric car which she said was a pleasure to drive without that awful noise from the engine. Sadly it was to be Henry’s Model T Ford which ended the reign of the electric car.

Batteries were still pretty crude but an electric car could run about 80 miles on a full charge which was excellent for the batteries available at the time, but Thomas Parker built an electric car in Wolverhampton using his own specially designed high-capacity rechargeable batteries.

Above: !900 Thomas Edison batteries as used in electric cars of the time

Electric cars had a bad time over the next 50 years or so with little development as they were no longer popular and virtually forgotten by the motoring masses. Several oddities came along largely made by amateurs. But there were some beautiful electric cars which were sadly mostly ignored by the motoring public. The problem was as now, charging the batteries. For 1961 the Henney was a smart car reminiscent of the Renault and the NSU Prinz of the time.

There were also some very strange vehicles on the road such as the Furness below.

In the 1960s things began to change with cars like the the Ford Mustang Electric below

As had always been the case, such cars did not do well due to the lack of finance which was not being put into the development of batteries. Lead/acid batteries were still the norm with the dangers of hydrogen gas emitted from the cells on charge being not only inflammable but explosive. My friend who was an autoelectrician came to meet me with a very red face and no eyebrows. Geoff had been smoking a cigarette when he checked the charging of a bank of batteries. Hydrogen is a light gas which rises, my friend….

The 1970s brought the same strange things with Sir Clive Sinclair serving up his tricycle with a washing machine motor onboard. Such machines were never practical and come to think of it, I never heard of Clive Sinclair since. Wonder what happened…..

The 90s brought about the Chrysler EV1. A project that was shelved as no one believed in electric cars any longer. Sadly this was before the Li-O=Ion battery came about or else I feel that it would have done well. Styling was very good for the 90s as can be seen below.

Unfortunately, a deal behind closed doors had the car removed from production and the remaining cars crushed.

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