You thought that the electric car was an invention of our time, and that it was an innovation of today. While it is relevant in its conception, it has been on our roads much longer. The first steam cars appeared in 1769, the industrial revolution brought about the arrival of the automobile. And it didn’t go smoothly!
If today, heat engines are the most used, at the time three choices were available to manufacturers: thermal, steam and already electricity. In fact, in 1900, most cars were electric! Explanations.
A little history !
If the first petroleum car saw the light of day in 1891 by Panhard and Levassor, electric cars have been around since around 1860. It was Robert Anderson, a Scottish businessman who made the first prototype in 1830. But these electric cars use batteries that cannot be recharged! Not very practical of course. In 1859, the French Gaston Planté invented the rechargeable lead acid battery. This battery will be the basis of future electric cars.
And, in 1881, three models of electric cars left the factories. Developed by three French people, Camille Faure, Charles Jeantaud and Nicolas Raffard, they were presented at the Paris International Electricity Exhibition in November 1881. It was, a priori, the first electric car in the world!
Gustave Found, designer of electrical devices (electric helicopter, electric motor boat) presents his electric motor to the Academy of Sciences. First adapted to a small boat, Found applies his engine to a tricycle. The vehicle is touted as the first electric car in history. However, the electric tricycle is still a prototype and its use on the road seems delicate: with a system of pulley controls, the driver must immerse metal plates in receptacles containing acid to modulate the intensity of the current and therefore its speed.
The same year, two English also presented an electric tricycle. Then it was the turn of an Englishman, Thomas Parker, to build one of the first electric cars in history. Engineer at Elwell-ParkeLdt, and manufacturer of electric locomotive, bus and tram, he marketed his first electric car in 1896. In France, Jeantaud automobiles produced an eponymous electric car capable of climbing up to 63 km / h! A speed record for the time!
Attractive at first!
As early as 1897, the first New York taxis drove their customers in electric cars. In motor racing, electric cars are more competitive than heat engines. In 1899 the “Jamais Contente” passed the 100 km / h barrier! In 1900, around 1/3 of rolling vehicles were powered by batteries. At that time an electric car can travel 30 km at 22.5 km / h and costs around 1500 €. In France, the Post Office delivered by electric car from 1901 … Easy to start, without a black cloud emanating from the exhaust, they are acclaimed. The “Mildé” equips La Poste. It is manufactured in Levallois-Perret (92) and allows letter carriers to swallow 50 km at 15 km / h!
Photo credit: Wikipedia / Public Domain
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Finally quickly on the decline
After a worldwide craze, but faced with the difficulty of manufacturing batteries, electric vehicles are gradually being scrapped in favor of thermal vehicles. The progress of the internal combustion engine continues to evolve and in 1908 the famous Ford T will sign the (temporary) death sentence for the electric car. It should also be said that at this time the cost of gasoline was not a problem!
Then it was not until 1990, almost a century anyway, to see the first plan for an electric vehicle: General Motors launched the EV-1, the first modern electric car. In France, Renault was the first to try electric power with the Next program in 1996.
Toyota was the first to market a hybrid: the Prius in 1997. 18,000 copies sold in the year of its release. We will then have to wait for the years 2000-2005 to see the beginnings of a market that will probably become one of the most competitive in 2020 …