The first ever electric car: a brief history

Intrigued by the history of electric cars? Find out about the inventors of the electric car, where it all began, and how we're still benefitting from them today.

Whatever you might think, electric cars weren’t born yesterday. In fact, the true inventor of the electric car is something that is still debated today. We couldn’t believe it either! If we talked about the electric car, you could trace this back to Anyos Jedlik, the Hungarian inventor who created a type of electric motor back in 1828, which he used to power a small model carriage.

If we’re talking electric carriages though, it’s thought the this took place between 1932 and 1839 by Scotsman Robert Anderson. Since then, he’s been praised for being the man who invented an electric carriage with non-rechargeable batteries.

Thomas Davenport also jumped on the bandwagon too in 1834 with the invention of the electric carriage but it was in 1865 when things really started to heat up when French physicist, Gaston Plante, invented a rechargeable battery that would make electric motoring even more practical. We know, this seems like nothing these days, but this was so big back then.

As crazy as this sounds, but if it wasn’t thanks to Plante’s breakthrough, who knows if we would be where we are today with purely electric cars like the Renault Zoe and Tesla Model S. If this is where we’re at now, who knows what we could have in the near future, maybe inductive charging? A special blate to recharge your car wirelessly?

Come 1884 and Victorian inventor, Thomas Parker steps onto the scene with a prototype version for an all-electric road car of his own design. Before you knew it, Parker’s electric car was being driven more than a decade before the first petrol-powered cars began to arrive here in the UK. Madness, isn’t it? It’s also crazy to think that Parker’s invention came just a year before the world’s first production car, the Benz Patent-Motorwagen.

In the years following this, plenty more electric cars came to light, from the two-seater horseless carriage in 1888 to the fleets of electric taxi cabs that began working in 1890. Even Harrods we’re all over it too. They saw the potential in electric vehicles and used it to their advantage for light delivery duties around London.

Compared to today’s standards, electric cars from back in the day have nothing on the models you see on the road now. Back then, electric cars generally tend to be more straightforward to drive and maintain compared to petrol and steam-powered cars that were around at that time. Emissions were also a thing back then too like they are now.

From the first electric car taxi in 1897 to an electric car being launched by Porsche in 1898, the electric industry was booming, with models flying out left, right and centre. The Electric Carriage and Wagon Company of Philadelphia produced a new model, the Electrobat in 1897, then a year later, Porsche hit us with the P1, powered by a 3bhp motor, with a top speed of 22mph and a range of up to 50 miles. Back in the day, figures like these were unheard of and we’re more than enough to give the P1 victory in an electric race.

Electric car 1898

Another landmark was reached when a Belgian-made electric car was in 1899, the La Jamais Contente. Word on the block has it that this became the first road vehicle to travel more than 62mph! This was something to shout about given that it was powered by two electric motors with a combined 67bhp. It was even driven by Belgian driver Camille Jenatzy, who set a cracking new land speed record, which wasn’t broken until 1902 when a steam-powered car came along at 75mph.

We’ll be honest with you, by 1912, the electric car market had come to a bit of a standstill, largely thanks to Henry Ford that is. Thanks to him, he brought down the price of petrol cars, making them a cheaper alternative to electrics.

From then on, electric cars slowly but surely began to fade into the distance until the 1960s when they began to make an appearance again. With the need to find an alternative fuel, electric cars started to come out of the woodwork but only this time, it looked like they were very much here to stay.

If you’re one of these people that is thinking about the emissions and the fact that we’re slowly moving towards a zero-emissions future, why not get rid of your current car now and swap it for an electric? We can help you to sell your car in a jiffy, all that we need is your reg number. Simply pop it into our online valuation tool and we’ll get back to you in no time with your list of offers. What’s stopping you? Let’s find out if you’re sitting on a mint.

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