When you think of electric powered cars, what image does your mind’s eye conjure up? The famous Toyota Prius hybrid car? What about a state of the art Tesla that is packed with the latest technology and gadgets? Both would be valid responses, as would the dozens of other modern electric and hybrid cars on the market today. People believe electric automobiles are something new and even futuristic, but what if we told you that the first electric car in the world was built in 1884, some 133 years ago.
British inventor Thomas Parker built the first practical production electric car in 1884 after designing his own high-capacity rechargeable batteries, which is amazing when you think about it because it wasn’t until 1891 that the United Kingdom’s first alternating current power system was designed and the first power station was opened. Four years later, Germany’s Andreas Flocken invented the Flocken Elektrowagen and he lays claim, correctly or not, to creating the first electric powered production car.
Cars powered by electric were quite popular during the late 19th century and the early 20th century, but rapid advances in the internal combustion technology led to their demise. Cars that used gasoline for fuel were quicker and easier to refuel, there was a better range of gasoline powered cars and when mass production of gasoline cars happened the writing was on the wall for the electric automobile; Ford Motor Company even reduced prices of gasoline cars to less than half of the equivalent electric car which effectively removed electric propulsion cars obsolete by the 1930s.
In more recent times, the popularity of electric cars has increased. Part of the reason for this is the advances in batteries, concerns about the ever fluctuating oil prices around the globe and people wanting to be “greener” in their lives; electric cars do not produce exhaust emissions and therefore can help to reduce greenhouse gases. In 2004, Californian company Tesla Motors began developing the Tesla Roadster and first delivered to its customers four years later in 2008. Seen as a major breakthrough in electronic car technology, the Roadster became the first highway legal serial production all-electric car. It’s lithium-ion batteries (it had no combustion engine at all) allowed the car to travel more than 320 kilometres per charge, another world first.
Since the Roadster’s launch, more than 30 all-electric models have been released by various manufacturers and more than one million cars have been sold up to September 2016. It appears that along with wanting to increase the potential range the cars can travel, there is also a race to see who can produce the fastest and quickest electric-powered cars. Currently, the Tesla Model S P100D is the fastest electric car in terms of acceleration, reaching 60 miles per hour in only 2.28 seconds, only 0.08 slower than the Porsche 918 Spyder that costs almost seven-times more.
Exciting times are ahead for the electric car industry. Technology is rapidly improving, production costs are reducing and more charging points are popping up around the world. Whether or not the combustion engine’s days are numbered remains to be seen, but it will be interesting to see how far companies such as Tesla can push the all-electric car.