Are Electric Vehicles (EVs) A New Invention? The Complete Guide For The UK

first electric car

You can be forgiven for thinking that electric cars are a very recent invention, pioneered by Elon Musk, the co-founder of Tesla, Inc. In reality, electric transportation is an invention much older than Mr. Musk and dates back to the early 19th century!

Electric Cars: The Basics

For those of you new to zero-emission electric driving, we recommend a read of the following articles:

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When Was The First Electric Vehicle (EV) Developed?

The first electric vehicle (EV) was developed nearly 200 years ago in the 1830’s, by a Scotsman named Robert Anderson. This electric vehicle was crude and certainly not as refined as the electric cars on the road today, like the luxurious Jaguar I-PACE.

Scotsman Robert Anderson electric car inventor
Scotsman Robert Anderson

However, more practical electric vehicles (EVs) were invented later in the 19th century. Many have been credited with the development of electric transportation, including the American Thomas Davenport, the Hungarian inventor Anyos Jedlik and Professor Sibrandus Stratingh from Holland.

When Were Hybrid Electric Vehicles Invented?

The Toyota Prius, though ubiquitous on UK roads, is not the first hybrid model to be introduced. In fact, in 1901, Ferdinand Porsche, better known as the founder of sports car manufacturer Porsche, developed the world’s first hybrid electric car, the Lohner-Porsche Mixte.

first electric car
An Early Electric Vehicle (EV)

Did The Early Electric Cars Have Rechargeable Batteries?

Though the very first electric cars did not have rechargeable batteries, French physicist Gaston Plante is widely credited for creating the first rechargeable battery for use in automobiles in 1865. Today’s leading electric car battery manufacturers, like BYD, have benefited from the work done by Plante, as rechargeable electric vehicle (EV) batteries have increased the practical attractiveness of battery-electric vehicles (BEVs), like the best-selling all-electric Tesla Model 3, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs).

When Was An Electric Car First Mass Produced?

Though the early EVs were not mass produced like the easily recognisable zero tailpipe emission Nissan Leaf, William Morrison, an American from Iowa, developed the Morrison Electric and signed a contract with the American Battery Company in 1891 to promote the Morrison Electric and in particular the Morrison battery.

first electric car
Horse-Drawn Carriage: Horsebus

Given The History Of Inventions For Electric Cars, Why Have EV’s Not Lead The Charge Sooner?

Even though EVs had an early lead with nearly a third of the market share in the early 20th century, the discovery of cheap crude oil in Texas changed the course of automobile history. With the introduction of more affordable mass produced petrol models like the Ford Model T, introduced in 1908 by Henry Ford, electric powered vehicles fell by the wayside.

The Resurgence Of Electric Cars In Recent Years!

Companies with a strong vision for cleaner form of transportation have led to the renaissance of EV’s. Tesla, Toyota and Nissan are three such automotive manufacturers (OEMs). Other stakeholders, including governments, climate groups, manufacturers and various associations have also contributed to the rapid increase in the adoption of electric vehicles. All these stakeholders share a common purpose: reduce pollution by using lower emission electric cars and lower the negative impact on our environment, as a result of road transportation.

Are We Going Full Circle In Regards To Cars?

Yes, we are certainly going full circle to where automobile history commenced with the early adoption of electric cars or green cars. Given the impending UK ban of the sale of new internal combustion engine (ICE) petrol and diesel cars by 2030, it is inevitable, that the majority of road users will be driving an electric car.

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Ashvin Suri

Ashvin has been involved with the renewables, energy efficiency and infrastructure sectors since 2006. He is passionate about the transition to a low-carbon economy and electric transportation. Ashvin commenced his career in 1994, working with US investment banks in New York. Post his MBA from the London Business School (1996-1998), he continued to work in investment banking at Flemings (London) and JPMorgan (London). His roles included corporate finance advisory, M&A and capital raising. He has been involved across diverse industry sectors, to include engineering, aerospace, oil & gas, airports and automotive across Asia and Europe. In 2010, he co-founded a solar development platform, for large scale ground and roof solar projects to include, the UK, Italy, Germany and France. He has also advised on various renewable energy (wind and solar) utility scale projects working with global institutional investors and independent power producers (IPP’s) in the renewable energy sector. He has also advised in key international markets like India, to include advising large-scale industrial and automotive group in India. Ashvin has also advised Indian Energy, an IPP backed by Guggenheim (a US$ 165 billion fund). He has also advised a US$ 2 billion, Singapore based group. Ashvin has also worked in the real estate and infrastructure sector, to including working with the Matrix Group (a US$ 4 billion property group in the UK) to launch one of the first few institutional real estate funds for the Indian real estate market. The fund was successfully launched with significant institutional support from the UK/ European markets. He has also advised on water infrastructure, to include advising a Swedish clean technology company in the water sector. He has also been involved with a number of early stage ventures.

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