Even though it might not seem like it, electric cars have been travelling on our city streets for over three centuries now and the first prototypes appeared before the arrival of cars with internal combustion engines.
What were the first electric car batteries like?
It was at the beginning of the 19th century when the first prototype electric vehicles started to be designed, but in Europe it was not until 1839 that a very basic first electric car was built that allowed several people to travel at the same time.
By the middle of the century, the advances in electric mobility in Europe were becoming more and more innovative and in 1852 the French scientist Gaston Planté would invent rechargeable batteries made from lead and acid.
Later the engineer Camille Faure, using an electrochemical procedure called active mass, would increase the capacity of the batteries, giving electric cars more autonomy.
When did electric cars start to be manufactured?
That was when the industrial production of electric cars got under way and, gradually, the big coach manufacturers came to see electric cars as a new way of moving around.
In 1889, the coach manufacturer Jacob Lohner and the engineer Ferdinand Porsche presented an electric vehicle at the Universal Exposition in Paris that could travel up to 79 km on a single charge, thanks to the propulsion motors in the four wheels. On the other side of the Atlantic, New Yorkers were already starting to see the first battery-powered vehicles on the streets of the Big Apple.
However, it was not until the start of the 20th century that Thomas Edison gave a boost to the electric car market by creating an iron and nickel battery with more capacity and autonomy, enabling the manufacture of electric vehicles to continue growing, even though it would not be a type of car everyone could afford because of its price.
How did cars with combustion engines come to dominate?
In the 1920s the great American manufacturer Henry Ford opened his first factory for cars with internal combustion engines, which were cheaper and more affordable and exceeded electric cars in terms of practical autonomy.
At that time the population was starting to travel more by road and the need to provide petrol quickly became more and more obvious. These factors would play a role in electric vehicles losing their prominent position in the car market.
Keys to the recovery of electric vehicles
The oil crisis of the 1970s, and the increasing awareness of sustainability and taking care of the environment that began in the 1990s, would prove key to the recovery in the manufacture of electric cars and in electric car technology.
In fact, at present, the electric vehicle share of the Spanish market stands at 2.6 % and sales and new registrations continue to rise.