The Electric Vehicle in the 1800s and Early 1900s
During the last decade a great focus has been placed upon vehicles powered by electric – as opposed to the widely used petrol and diesel. In order to reduce the amount of CO2 emissions produced by vehicles, many big manufacturers have produced their own electric vehicle models – such as Renault, with the Zoe, and Peugeot, with the iOn.
Although the electric vehicle may seem like a relatively new concept, they have existed for more than 100 years.
The origins can be traced back to the 1800s, with a number of efforts by inventors credited with kick-starting the concept.
Hungarian engineer and inventor ?nyos Jedlik designed and created a fully operational, small-scale model of a car powered by an electric motor in 1828, whilst Scottish inventor Robert Anderson invented an electric-power carriage at some point between 1832 and 1839. Crudely designed, this carriage was operated by non-rechargeable power cells.
Professor Stratingh of Groningen designed another example of the early models. His assistant, Christopher Becker then built the small-scale model using the designs in 1835. Thomas Davenport – the inventor of the first DC electric motor built in America – also constructed his own version of a small-scale motor during the same year.
Although ground-breaking, many of these early examples weren’t particularly practical – due to their small-scale – and were not suitable for use on the road.
Davenport and another Scottish inventor, Robert Davidson would both incorporate non-rechargeable batteries into their efforts – designed in 1842.
Towards the end of the century, the electric vehicle became a more practical option, following the invention of higher capacity batteries – developed first by Gaston Plante in 1865 and then improved on by Camille Faure in 1881.
The electric vehicle – as a concept – was particularly popular in Europe at this point, with France and Great Britain being amongst the first countries to throw their support behind the development.
Electric vehicles eventually began to become popular in America in 1895, following an innovation made by William Morrison. He designed an electrically powered six-passenger wagon in 1891. This project broke new ground and is widely considered to be the first ‘real’ and useable example.
The Electric Carriage and Wagon Company of Philadelphia, in 1897, would then become the first company to commercially produce an electric vehicle – which would eventually form a fleet of New York taxicabs.
Possessing the advantage of reduced vibrations, quieter engines and less unpleasant smells when compared to gas-powered cars, the electric vehicle became extremely popular during the early 1900s.
During this period The Woods Motor Vehicle Company of Chicago would build the 1902 Phaeton. Boasting a top-speed of 14 mph (miles per hour) and a range of 18 miles, the Phaeton marked a high point – with electric cars outselling all other types of cars at the turn of the century.
Production of electric-powered cars would continue into the 1920s before a decline set in – partly due to the need for longer-range vehicles and the development of much cheaper gas-powered cars mass produced by Henry Ford.
Following a raft of recent developments, the typical modern electric car is designed to look similar to its petrol or diesel-powered counterparts, while it is also a much more environmentally friendly option too – and it’s these factors that could make a widespread revival of the electric car a distinct possibility.
We have recently seen enormous developments in electric vehicle technology. However, the concept is anything but new – with the first concept models being produced as far back as the 1820s.