Don’t let the minimalist design or ultralow emissions fool you. Electric vehicles may look every bit like cars of the future, but they’ve been around for years.
- Earliest models
The birthplace of the electric vehicle is split between the U.K. and U.S. Robert Anderson of Scotland built an electric-powered carriage, while Thomas Davenport of Vermont invented an electrical car motor that operated on a track.
- 19th-century growth
The Pope Manufacturing Co. of Hartford, Conn., built around 500 electric cars over a two-year period. The first commercial electric vehicles enter the New York City taxi fleet.
- EV early heyday
Electric cars are the top-selling vehicle in the U.S, with 28 percent of the market.
- Petroleum powers up
The dominance of electric cars was short-lived. Gasoline-powered cars took over, with Ford’s Model T in 1908.
- No need to crank
Charles Kettering invents an electric starter that makes it easier to drive cars with gasoline engines because there’s no need to hand-crank.
- Electric dinosaurs
Electric vehicles all but disappeared with the growth of gas-powered cars.
- Simmering interest
Electric vehicles are brought up as an alternative when gasoline supplies are tight. When Japan struggled with depleted oil supplies after World War II, Japanese automaker Tama released an electric car that ran on a 40-volt lead acid battery.
- OPEC oil
The OPEC oil embargo sparked a new conversation about electric vehicles.
- California sparks resurgence
When California passed a requirement for zero-emission vehicles, GM responded with the mass-produced electric vehicle: the EV1.
- Hybrids come to market
Toyota begins sales of Prius, a gas-electric hybrid, in Japan.
- New EVs and hybrids launch
Numerous automakers roll out sleek new electric vehicles and hybrids. Nissan launched its all-electric Leaf in 2010. A year later, Autolib, a Paris-based electric car sharing service, started with a fleet of 3,000 vehicles.
- Worldwide acceptance
Chevrolet’s Volt, a plug-in hybrid, outsells half the car models in the U.S. market.
Source: International Energy Agency, hybridCARS.com.