Tesla News – An illustrated history of electric car design
EVs might be a hot topic now, but even before Karl Benz patented his internal combustion car in 1886, our ancestors and forebears were already finding ways to electrify a chassis with wheels.
In fact gasoline, electricity, steam, coal gas, compressed air, superheated water and even a spring-motor device that stored energy running downhill and used it going uphill were all competing forms of propulsion at the dawn of the car.
The earliest record of an electric passenger vehicle dates back to April 1880 and the brainchild of French inventor and electrical engineer Gustave Pierre Trouvé. Built using a James Starley English tricycle, the first electric car was a three-wheeledr with a modified Siemens electric motor and lead-acid battery pack.
Budget Direct Car Insurance
There is a rich history of EV design, dating all the way back to 1884. This video showcases the evolution of more than 100 years of electric car design.
Now that electric vehicles are once again entering mainstream consciousness among car buyers, our friends at Budget Direct Car Insurance decided to pay homage to history’s most influential EVs as well as look to the future of EV design.
It is a fairly robust and comprehensive list that is simply too big for us to fit here, but you can check out the video above, read the full list here or flip through some of our favourites from each decade below.
1880s – Thomas Parker’s electric car (1884)
English inventor and industrialist Thomas Parker’s first patented invention is a modified steam pump. Still, he was driving to work in Wolverhampton in an electric car that he designed and built in 1884, ten years before Britain’s first taste of a petrol-powered car.
Parker has a knack for fuel-efficient and clean-burning vehicles, which led him to create the first production electric car. He even designed a steam generator to recharge his EV’s lead-acid battery pack.
1890s – La Jamais Contente (1899)
The La Jamais Contente (The Never Satisfied) is a torpedo-shaped electric vehicle built in Belgium in 1899. Driven by Belgian driver Camille Jenatzy, it was the first road vehicle to go over 100kmh courtesy of two 25kW direct-drive Postel Vinay electric motors.
1900s – Baker Electric Truck (1907)
Baker had seventeen electric models in its lineup by 1907, but the biggest is its range of five-ton electric trucks. Baker electric trucks were designed and created for business owners and were sold until the company’s demise in 1914.
1910s – Baker Electric Coupe (1910)
Primarily marketed as an electric luxury car for the ladies, the Baker Electric Coupe seats up to four passengers. It came with black paint and a choice between green, maroon, or blue panels.
In 1912, Ford’s Model T had base prices starting at US$650 while an electric car sold at around US$1,750. This price disparity is among many reasons behind the dwindling popularity of electric vehicles. For instance, the Baker Electric Coupe sold for US$2,800 in 1910.
1920s to 1940s – Nothing…
The electric car slowly faded to oblivion between 1915 to 1954, partly due to the Ford Model T and its affordable base price. However, there were other factors at play. Road infrastructures were significantly improving by the early 1920s, spurring the need for faster vehicles with greater range.
American inventor Charles Kettering invented the electric starter in 1912, eliminating the need to dangerously crank gasoline engines by hand. And by 1897, Milton O. Reeves and Marshall T. Reeves invented the first muffler to reduce petrol engine noise significantly. The worldwide discovery of massive crude oil deposits led to cheaper petrol and reduced a petrol-powered car’s operating costs.
Spurred by the global energy crisis and growing concern against the effects of global warming and hydrocarbon pollution, interest in electric cars saw a resurgence in the early 60s to the late 70s.
1950s – Henney Kilowatt (1959)
The Henney Kilowatt was produced from 1959 to 1960. The Henney Motor company sold 47 examples of the Kilowatt to electric utility companies across the United States. It had a top speed of 95kmh and a 100km range.
1960s – Chevrolet Electrovair (1966)
General Motors was silently experimenting with electric cars in the 1960s. Based on the second-generation Chevy Corvair, GM built the Electrovair as a proof of concept. The Electrovair had a top speed of 130kmh and a range of 65 to 130 kilometres.
1970s – CitiCar (1974)
The CitiCar was produced between 1974 and 1977 by Sebring-Vanguard Inc. The company built 4,444 units of the CitiCar and is the most in North America since the 1940s, a record that stood until the Tesla Model S came into the picture.
1980s – Sinclair C5 (1985)
It may look like a toy, and it probably is. The Sinclair C5 is a battery-electric tricycle with a 12-volt lead-acid battery and 30km of range.
1990s – GM EV1 (1996)
General Motors produced 1,117 units of the EV1 between 1996 to 1999. It earns the distinction of becoming the first mass-produced electric vehicle from a legacy automaker and is the first electric car designed by the GM from scratch.
2000s – Venturi Fetish (2004)
Monaco-based electric car company Venturi built the Fetish from 2004 to 2007. Fetish was the first electric sports car in the world (it came out four years before the Tesla Roadster), and it initially came with a 180kW electric motor. The company launched a new version of the vehicle in 2011, which packed a 220kW motor.
2010s – NIO EP9 (2016)
The NIO EP9 inherited electric learnings from the brand’s Formula E racing team. It’s a two-seat electric sports car with four motors producing a combined 1000kW. The EP9’s lithium-ion battery pack offers up to 425km of range, but it has to be removed from the vehicle before recharging.
2020s – Tesla Cybertruck (2022?)
Tesla fans can’t wait for 2022 to arrive with the impending arrival of Cybertruck, the most rugged Tesla EV to date. It has an innovative exoskeleton chassis with a single, dual, or tri-motor setup. The latter can push the Cybertruck from zero to 100kmh in under 2.9-seconds…
Tesla News – An illustrated history of electric car design
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