Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?



The Long History Of Electric Cars

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!


Written by Improv Traffic School*.

We tend to view electric vehicles as an invention created by the green movement. The first electric production car actually traces its history much further back, but perhaps the inventor’s motives were actually “green.”

Thomas Parker was an inventor from England who invented the first production electric car that used rechargeable batteries. It is believed Parker was at least partially motivated by the growing smoke and pollution in London and was looking to maximize fuel efficiencies. The year? It was in 1884.

The first electric car in the United States was created about seven years later by William Morrison and could reach a then-pretty-impressive 14 miles per hour. Electric cars, however, still remained more popular in Europe than in the US.

Around 1900, a fleet of electric taxi cabs took to the streets in London, but the first gasoline/electric hybrid was built near Chicago. That vehicle, however, was not a commercial success because it was too expensive, it was too slow, and it was a challenge to maintain.

Early electric cars had quite a few advantages over other consumer choices. Gas cars had to be hand-cranked to get started and also all had manual transmissions. Electric cars were quiet, smooth running, would start easily and no shifting was needed. There were also steam-powered vehicles at the time, but they would take a long time to build up power, especially in cold temperatures.

By the 1920s, electric cars had lost ground to their rivals, as gas-powered vehicles could cover greater distances. Gas cars also began adding conveniences that increased their popularity. And the main reason gas-powered cars gained popularity over electric cars was price. Production techniques made it possible to buy a gasoline-powered car at half the cost of an electric car.

Fuel shortages during World War II increased interest again in electric cars, but those efforts were short-lived. It wasn’t until the 1970s that another shortage fueled interest in electric cars. Finally, in the 1990s major auto manufacturers began to offer mainstream electric and hybrid options.

The movement to electric vehicles has been a slow process. It has always been dictated by consumer desires, price, and practicality. There are predictions that the electric car market will reach 7% of total car sales by 2020, and there are some who think the market will be much bigger by then. We’ll see!

This article has been supported by Improv Driving School.

Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

EV Obsession Daily!

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it!! So, we've decided to completely nix paywalls here at CleanTechnica. But...
Like other media companies, we need reader support! If you support us, please chip in a bit monthly to help our team write, edit, and publish 15 cleantech stories a day!
Thank you!

Tesla Sales in 2023, 2024, and 2030

CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.
Written By

CleanTechnica occasionally chooses to work with select clients for paid promotion on our network sites. This is the account for all paid content. For information about paid outreach, please contact our Accounts Manager.


You May Also Like


New zinc bromine flow batteries take center stage in the long duration energy storage field, while adding to the list of things that Exxon...

Clean Power

This new offshore floating wind turbine will conquer the Gulf of Maine, if all goes according to plan.


On beyond buttons: Panasonic scales up solid-state batteries for drones and robots while US sets sights on electric vehicles.

Autonomous Vehicles

Keep an eye out for electric vehicles that look like ordinary freight cars, testing soon on railways in the US.

Copyright © 2023 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.