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Home > Historic Timeline for the Electric Car

Historic Timeline for the Electric Car

1834: Thomas Davenport invents the battery electric car. Or possibly Robert Anderson of Scotland (between 1832 and 1839). Using non-rechargable batteries. Electric vehicles would hold all vehicle land speed records until about 1900.

1859: Gaston Plante invented rechargeable lead-acid batteries.

1889: Thomas Edison built an EV using nickel-alkaline batteries.

1895: First auto race in America , won by an EV.

1896: First car dealer – sells only EVs.

1897: First vehicle with power steering – an EV. Electric self-starters 20 years before appearing in gas-powered cars.

1898: NYC blizzard, only EVs were capable of transport on the roads. First woman to buy a car – it was an EV.

1899: Pope Manufacturing Company forms the Electric Vehicle Company, the first large-scale operation in the US automobile industry.

1900: NYC’s huge pollution problem – horses. 2.5 million pounds of manure, 60,000 gallons of urine daily on the streets; 15,000 dead horses removed from the streets each year. All US cars produced: 33% steam cars, 33% EV, and 33% gasoline cars. Poll at the National Automobile Show in NYC showed people's first choice for automobiles was electric followed closely by steam.

1901: Oldsmobile EV (Walt Disney's). William McKinley, 25th US President, takes his final ride in an electric ambulance.

1903: First speeding ticket – it was earned in an EV. Krieger company makes a hybrid vehicle — using a gasoline engine to supplement a battery pack.

1904: America has only 7% of the 2 million miles of roads better than dirt – only 141 miles, or less than one mile in 10,000 was “paved”. Here's a 1904 Curved Dash Olds (replica). Henry Ford begins assembly line production of low-priced gas-powered vehicles.

1908: Henry Ford buys his wife, Clara Ford, an EV. Many socialites of that time gave this rousing endorsement for EVs, “It never fails me.”

1910: Motorized assembly produces gas-powered cars in volume; reducing cost per vehicle.

1912: 38,842 EVs on the road. Horse drawn “tankers” deliver gasoline to gas stations. EVs perform well in snow.

1913: Ford creates experimental EVs [1, 2] . Self starter for gas cars (10 years later for the Model-T).

1915: The Detroit Electric Automobile.

1921: Federal Highway Act. By 1922, federal match (50%) for highway construction and repair (for mail delivery). Before this, roads were considered only “feeders” to railroads, and left to the local jurisdiction to fund.

1956: National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. Funded 90% by states, and 90% by the federal government.

1957: Sputnik is launched. The US space program initiates advanced battery R&D.

1966: Gallup poll: 36 million really interested in EVs. At the time EVs had a top speed of 40 mph, and typical range less than 50 miles.

1967: Walter Laski founds the Electric Auto Association.

1968-1978: Congress passes more regulatory statues than ever before due to health risks associated with cars: collisions, dirty air.

1972: First Annual EAA EV rally.

1974: CitiCar debut at Electric Vehicle Symposium in Washington , DC. Full production also ramps up.
By 1975, Vanguard-Sebring, maker of the CitiCar is the 6th largest auto maker in the US. EAA member Roger Hedlund sets first world speed record for EVs at Bonneville Salt Flats.

1976: EAA members assist US Congress in creating the Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Research, Development, and Demonstration Act of 1976.

1977: EAA member Frank Willey developed a transistorized speed controller and earned the IEEE Outstanding Engineering Award. First named the Willey-9 controller, later became the Curtis 1221C.

1983: A fleet of EVs drove from San Jose, CA to San Francisco, CA, 100 mile round trip, on a single charge.

1985: Saied Motai drove 230 miles on a single charge.

1990: California establishes the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Mandate; requires 2% of vehicles to be ZEVs by 1998, 10% ZEVs by 2003. GM shows their production EV initially named, Impact; later it was re-named the EV-1. (US government spent $194 million on all energy efficient research. Much less than the $1 billion for a single day of Desert Storm, or the $1 billion per week of 2003 Iraq conflict.)

1991: First Phoenix Solar and Electric 500 race.

1992: EAA supports California $1,000 tax credit for EVs.

1993: EAA member Bob Schneeveis races over 100 mph in a custom-built electric car named "Snow White". The EAA's EV Showcase exhibit is featured at WESCON Electronics Trade Show in San Francisco. GM estimated that it would take 3 months to collect names of 5,000 people interested in the EV-1 – it only took one week!

1994: Twelve additional states adopt the California ZEV mandates. The GM Impact EV (later to be named the EV-1) sets a 187 mph speed record.

1995: Renaissance Cars, Inc begins production of the Tropica.

1996: EAA helps to hatch CALSTART incubator (for EV research) in Alameda , CA. Solectria Sunrise breaks the 300 mile range at the NESEA Tour de Sol. GM begins production of the EV-1 (formerly called the Impact).

1997: Toyota Prius hybrid gas-electric vehicle unveiled at the Tokyo Auto Show as the first production hybrid vehicle. First National Electric Drag Racing Association (NEDRA) event in Woodburn, Oregon.

2000: Ford offers the Th!nk City EV, it's version of the Pivco, in California.

2001: CARB upholds the ZEV Mandate of between 4,000 and 15,000 EVs starting in 2003. Dr. Andy Frank and his UC Davis Team Fate produce demonstration plug-in hybrid vehicles.

2002: EAA launches the 1st annual Chapter's meeting in Washington, D.C. Toyota RAV4-EV retail sales begins; their estimated 2-year supply sold out in 8 months. Ford sells the Th!nk City Group.

2003: ZEV Mandate weakened to allow ZEV credits for non-ZEVs. Only requires 250 fuel-cell vehicles by 2009. Toyota stops production of the RAV4-EV; Honda stops lease renewals of the EV-Plus; GM does the same for the EV-1.

2003: AC Propulsion’s tZero earns highest grade at the Michelin Challenge Bibendum; tZero specs: 300 miles per charge, 0-60mph in 3.6 seconds, 100 mph top speed.

2004: The Ford Ranger EV and Th!nk are saved from the crushers. Unfortunately, the GM EV1 could not be saved from the crusher. CalCars demonstrates modifications to a Toyota Prius to enable plug-in capabilities.

2005: Commuter Cars’ Tango begins shipments in fall of 2005. Myers Motors introduces the MM NmG (formerly the Corbin Sparrow). DontCrush.com saves EVs from the crusher — including the Th!nk City, Ranger EV, RAV4-EV. The EAA launches a Plug-In Hybrid Special Interest Group. Hybrid sales are through the roof. EDrive Systems brings their plug-in hybrid to the EVS-21 Auto Conference in Monaco. Launch of PlugInAmerica, a coalition of EV drivers, clean air and energy independence advocates working to promote the use of plug-in vehicles.

2006: The Wrightspeed X1 demonstrates ability to go from 0 to 60 mph in about three seconds, and has a range of 100 miles in "normal" city driving. President Bush describes plug-in hybrids (video). EAA launches the first special interest chapter, the PlugInAmerica chapter.

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