Here’s a basic timeline for you, since there are so many answers to this question that could technically be considered correct:
- 1828: Anyos Jedlik creates an electromagnetic motor with a stator, rotor and commutator. He uses it to power a tiny model car. Some people consider this to be the first electric car even though you couldn’t drive it or anything.
- 1834: Thomas Davenport creates the first American DC electric motor, then uses it to power a small car around a track. This set the stage for streetcars to eventually run on electricity. Again, some people consider this the first electric car, but it wasn’t exactly something you could travel with.
- 1835: Sibrandus Stratingh and Christopher Becker create a car that runs on non-rechargeable primary cells. This is also on a small scale, so it’s a model, too. (Clyde gave me this one since these two are Dutch.)
- 1838: Robert Davidson builds an electric locomotive. It can travel at 4 mph. FAST.
- Somewhere between 1832-1839: Robert Anderson builds a sort of electric carriage thingy. We’re not exactly sure when he did it.
- 1867: An electric motorcycle goes on display at the World Exhibition (in Paris). To this day, the French still like bicycles and motorcycles and stuff.
- 1881: Gustave Trouve shows off a working three-wheel car at the International Electricity Exhibition of Paris.
There you go! An Englishman named Thomas Parker claimed that he had created a working electric car by 1884, but Trouve’s three-wheeler beat it by three years.
Obviously, we’ve come a long way with these electric vehicles. They’re seen as a mainstream thing these days after years of not being seen as a viable option, which is interesting - my racing teammate Armo is even trying to design a racecar that runs solely on electricity. He might just figure that out, actually.
~ Ells, who really wishes someone would pay her to write about automotive history