The History of Electric Vehicles

By: Somerville Auto   |   20 Oct 2022

A Lesson in History

The invention of the internal combustion engine in the 19th century revolutionized transportation over land, water, and air. But the electric vehicle found its place in history much earlier than you’d think.


1828 – The First Known Electric Vehicles are Invented

Between 1828 and 1839, various inventors from Hungary, Scotland, and the Netherlands each created the first known versions of electric vehicles made of everything from crude electric carriages to electric motors to non-rechargeable primary cells.


1889 – The First Successful EV Debuts in the U.S.

William Morrison of Iowa creates the first successful electric vehicle to be seen in the US that features an electric wagon. The invention sparks interest in EVs throughout the country.


1899 – Electric Vehicles Gain Popularity

Compared to gas and steam-powered automobiles, EVs are much easier to drive without emitting harsh odours and pollutants. They quickly become popular among urban residents and women of the time.


1912 – Electric Vehicles Reach Their Hey Day

By the turn of the century, EVs are all the rage in the US and accounted for a third of all the vehicles on the road. Hybrid vehicles are also introduced with more innovations by inventors like Thomas Edison looking to make improvements with the high demand.


1920 – Electric Vehicles on the Decline

With the advent of cheap Texas crude oil, electric vehicles are considered to be more expensive and inconvenient to maintain. By 1935, they are almost completely obsolete.


1973 – Fuel Prices on the Rise

With the gas-oil crises of the 1960s and 1970s, electric vehicles become more attractive again for the first time in 30 years. Big and small automakers begin exploring and redesigning EV options.


1980 – Electric Vehicles on the Decline - Again

Despite the growing interest in the 1970s, the economic boom of the 1980s, coupled with the limitations in EV engineering, cause the second decline in electric vehicles.


1990 – New U.S. Regulations Spark EV Interest

State and federal regulations renew interest in EVs and facilitate increased innovation by popular automakers.


1996 – General Motors Reveals the EV1

Designed and developed from the ground up, GM releases its first-ever electric vehicle, EV1, which quickly gains a cult following.


1997 – Toyota Introduces the First Mass-Produced Hybrid

Toyota releases the iconic Prius model, the first ever mass-produced vehicle employing hybrid technology and becomes an instant success in an age of eco-consciousness.


2006 – Silicon Valley Takes Interest

By the turn of the century, hybrid vehicles are the norm, and Silicon Valley becomes the driving force providing financial resources and innovation. Tesla Motors announces plans to create the first-ever luxury electric sportscar.


2009 – Development of Charging Stations

As hybrid and electric vehicles pick up steam, the Department of Energy invests in nation-wide charging infrastructure, installing 18,000 residential, commercial and public charging stations.


2010 – The First Plug-In Hybrid

General Motors introduces the Chevy Volt, the first-ever plug-in hybrid.


2010 – EV Battery Costs Drop

Traditionally known as the most expensive part of manufacturing EVs, prices of electric batteries drop by nearly 50% thanks to investments by the Department of Energy, making EVs more affordable to consumers.


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