History of the electric vehicle

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The General Motors EV1, one of the cars introduced due to the California Air Resources Board mandate, had a range of 160 mi (260 km) with NiMH batteries in 1999.

The history of the electric vehicle began in the mid-19th century. An electrical vehicle held the vehicular land speed record until around 1900. The high cost, low top speed and short range of electric vehicles, compared to later internal combustion vehicles, led to a worldwide decline in their use. At the beginning of the 21st Century, interest in electrical and other alternative fuel vehicles has increased due to growing concern over the problems associated with hydrocarbon fueled vehicles, including damage to the environment caused by their emissions, and the sustainability of the current hydrocarbon-based transportation infrastructure.

Early history[edit]

Electric model cars[edit]

The invention of the first model electric vehicle is attributed to various people.[1] In 1828, Ányos Jedlik, a Hungarian who invented an early type of electric motor, created a small model car powered by his new motor. In 1834, Vermont blacksmith Thomas Davenport built a similar contraption which operated on a short circular electrified track.[2] In 1835, Professor Sibrandus Stratingh of Groningen, the Netherlands and his assistant Christopher Becker created a small-scale electrical car, powered by non-rechargeable primary cells.[3]

Electric locomotives[edit]

The first known electric car was built in 1837 by chemist Robert Davidson of Aberdeen. It was powered by galvanic cells (batteries). Davidson later built a larger locomotive named Galvani, exhibited at the Royal Scottish Society of Arts Exhibition in 1841. The seven-ton vehicle had two direct-drive reluctance motors, with fixed electromagnets acting on iron bars attached to a wooden cylinder on each axle, and simple commutators. It hauled a load of six tons at four miles per hour for a distance of one and a half miles. It was tested on the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway in September of the following year, but the limited power from batteries prevented its general use. It was destroyed by railway workers, who saw it as a threat to their security of employment.[4][5][6][7]

Between 1832 and 1839, British inventor Robert Anderson also invented a crude electrical carriage.[8] A patent for the use of rails as conductors of electric current was granted in England in 1840, and similar patents were issued to Lilley and Colten in the United States in 1847.[9]

First practical electric cars[edit]

Rechargeable batteries that provided a viable means for storing electricity on board a vehicle did not come into being until 1859, with the invention of the lead-acid battery by French physicist Gaston Planté.[10][11] Camille Alphonse Faure, another French scientist, significantly improved the design of the battery in 1881; his improvements greatly increased the capacity of such batteries and led directly to their manufacture on an industrial scale.[12]

Electric car built by Thomas Parker

An early electric-powered two-wheel cycle was put on display at the 1867 World Exposition in Paris by the Austrian inventor Franz Kravogl, but it was regarded as a curiosity and could not drive reliably in the street.[13] Another cycle, this time with three wheels, was exhibited in November 1881 by French inventor Gustave Trouvé at the International Exhibition of Electricity in Paris.[14]

English inventor Thomas Parker, who was responsible for innovations such as electrifying the London Underground, overhead tramways in Liverpool and Birmingham, and the smokeless fuel coalite, built the first production electric car in London in 1884, using his own specially designed high-capacity rechargeable batteries.[15] Parker's long-held interest in the construction of more fuel-efficient vehicles led him to experiment with electric vehicles. He also may have been concerned about the malign effects smoke and pollution were having in London.[16]

Production of the car was in the hands of the Elwell-Parker Company, established in 1882 for the construction and sale of electric trams. The company merged with other rivals in 1888 to form the Electric Construction Corporation; this company had a virtual monopoly on the British electric car market in the 1890s. The company manufactured the first electric 'dog cart' in 1896.[17]

German electric car, 1904, with the chauffeur on top

France and the United Kingdom were the first nations to support the widespread development of electric vehicles.[8] The first electric car in Germany was built by the engineer Andreas Flocken in 1888.[18]

Electric trains were also used to transport coal out of mines, as their motors did not use up precious oxygen. Before the pre-eminence of internal combustion engines, electric automobiles also held many speed and distance records.[19] Among the most notable of these records was the breaking of the 100 km/h (62 mph) speed barrier, by Camille Jenatzy on 29 April 1899 in his 'rocket-shaped' vehicle Jamais Contente, which reached a top speed of 105.88 km/h (65.79 mph). Also notable was Ferdinand Porsche's design and construction of an all-wheel drive electric car, powered by a motor in each hub, which also set several records in the hands of its owner E.W. Hart.

The first American electric car was developed in 1890-91 by William Morrison of Des Moines, Iowa; the vehicle was a six-passenger wagon capable of reaching a speed of 14 miles per hour (23 km/h). It was not until 1895 that Americans began to devote attention to electric vehicles, after A.L. Ryker introduced the first electric tricycles to the U.S., by that point, Europeans had been making use of electric tricycles, bicycles, and cars for almost 15 years.

Golden age[edit]

Interest in motor vehicles increased greatly in the late 1890s and early 1900s. Electric battery-powered taxis became available at the end of the 19th century. In London, Walter C. Bersey designed a fleet of such cabs and introduced them to the streets of London in 1897. They were soon nicknamed 'Hummingbirds’ due to the idiosyncratic humming noise they made.[20] In the same year in New York City, the Samuel's Electric Carriage and Wagon Company began running 12 electric hansom cabs.[21] The company ran until 1898 with up to 62 cabs operating until it was reformed by its financiers to form the Electric Vehicle Company.[22]

In 1911, the first gasoline-electric hybrid car was released by the Woods Motor Vehicle Company of Chicago. The hybrid was a commercial failure, proving to be too slow for its price, and too difficult to service.[23]

Thomas Edison and an electric car in 1913 (courtesy of the National Museum of American History)

Due to technological limitations and the lack of transistor-based electric technology, the top speed of these early electric vehicles was limited to about 32 km/h (20 mph).[citation needed] Despite this slow speed, electric vehicles had a number of advantages over their early-1900s competitors. They did not have the vibration, smell, and noise associated with gasoline cars. They also did not require gear changes. (While steam-powered cars also had no gear shifting, they suffered from long start-up times of up to 45 minutes on cold mornings.) The cars were also preferred because they did not require a manual effort to start, as did gasoline cars which featured a hand crank to start the engine.

Electric cars found popularity among well-heeled customers who used them as city cars, where their limited range proved to be even less of a disadvantage. Electric cars were often marketed as suitable vehicles for women drivers due to their ease of operation; in fact, early electric cars were stigmatized by the perception that they were "women's cars", leading some companies to affix radiators to the front to disguise the car's propulsion system.

1912 Detroit Electric advertisement.

Acceptance of electric cars was initially hampered by a lack of power infrastructure, but by 1912, many homes were wired for electricity, enabling a surge in the popularity of the cars. At the turn of the century, 40 percent of American automobiles were powered by steam, 38 percent by electricity, and 22 percent by gasoline. 33,842 electric cars were registered in the United States, and America became the country where electric cars had gained the most acceptance.[24] Most early electric vehicles were massive, ornate carriages designed for the upper-class customers that made them popular. They featured luxurious interiors and were replete with expensive materials. Sales of electric cars peaked in the early 1910s.

In order to overcome the limited operating range of electric vehicles, and the lack of recharging infrastructure, an exchangeable battery service was first proposed as early as 1896.[25] The concept was first put into practice by Hartford Electric Light Company through the GeVeCo battery service and initially available for electric trucks. The vehicle owner purchased the vehicle from General Vehicle Company (GVC, a subsidiary of the General Electric Company) without a battery and the electricity was purchased from Hartford Electric through an exchangeable battery. The owner paid a variable per-mile charge and a monthly service fee to cover maintenance and storage of the truck. Both vehicles and batteries were modified to facilitate a fast battery exchange. The service was provided between 1910 to 1924 and during that periord covered more than 6 million miles. Beginning in 1917 a similar successful service was operated in Chicago for owners of Milburn Light Electric cars who also could buy the vehicle without the batteries.[25]


East German electric vans of the Deutsche Post in 1953

After enjoying success at the beginning of the 20th century, the electric car began to lose its position in the automobile market. A number of developments contributed to this situation. By the 1920s an improved road infrastructure required vehicles with a greater range than that offered by electric cars. Worldwide discoveries of large petroleum reserves led to the wide availability of affordable gasoline, making gas-powered cars cheaper to operate over long distances. Electric cars were limited to urban use by their slow speed (no more than 24–32 km/h or 15–20 mph.[24]) and low range (30–40 miles or 50–65 km[24]), and gasoline cars were now able to travel farther and faster than equivalent electrics.

Gasoline cars became ever easier to operate thanks to the invention of the electric starter by Charles Kettering in 1912,[26] which eliminated the need of a hand crank for starting a gasoline engine, and the noise emitted by ICE cars became more bearable thanks to the use of the muffler, which Hiram Percy Maxim had invented in 1897. Finally, the initiation of mass production of gas-powered vehicles by Henry Ford brought their price down.[27] By contrast, the price of similar electric vehicles continued to rise; by 1912, an electric car sold for almost double the price of a gasoline car.[8]

The Henney Kilowatt, a 1961 production electric car.

Most electric car makers stopped production at some point in the 1910s. Electric vehicles became popular for certain applications where their limited range did not pose major problems. Forklift trucks were electrically powered when they were introduced by Yale in 1923.[28] In Europe, especially the United Kingdom, milk floats were powered by electricity. Electric golf carts were produced by Lektro as early as 1954.[29] By the 1920s, the early heyday of electric cars had passed, and a decade later, the electric automobile industry had effectively disappeared. Michael Brian examines the social and technological reasons for the failure of electric cars in his book Taking Charge: The Electric Automobile in America.[30]

The 1973 General Motors Urban Electric Car, charging its battery at the first symposium on low pollution power systems development.

Years passed without a major revival in the use of electric cars. Fuel-starved European countries fighting in World War II experimented with electric cars (such as the British milk floats and the French Breguet Aviation car), but overall, while ICE development progressed at a brisk pace, electric vehicle technology stagnated. In the late 1950s, Henney Coachworks and the National Union Electric Company, makers of Exide batteries, formed a joint venture to produce a new electric car, the Henney Kilowatt, based on the European Renault Dauphine. The car was produced in 36-volt and 72-volt configurations; the 72-volt models had a top speed approaching 96 km/h (60 mph) and could travel for nearly an hour on a single charge. Despite the Kilowatt's improved performance with respect to previous electric cars, consumers found it[citation needed] too expensive compared to equivalent gasoline cars of the time, and production ended in 1961.

In 1959, American Motors Corporation (AMC) and Sonotone Corporation announced a joint research effort to consider producing an electric car powered by a "self-charging" battery.[31] AMC had a reputation for innovation in economical cars while Sonotone had technology for making sintered plate nickel-cadmium batteries that could be recharged rapidly and weighed less than traditional lead-acid versions.[32] That same year, Nu-Way Industries showed an experimental electric car with a one-piece plastic body that was to begin production in early 1960.[31]

The three lunar rovers are currently parked on the moon.

The U.S. and Canada Big Three automakers had their own electric car programs during the late-1960s. In 1967, much smaller AMC partnered with Gulton Industries to develop a new battery based on lithium and a speed controller designed by Victor Wouk.[33] A nickel-cadmium battery supplied power to an all-electric 1969 Rambler American station wagon.[33] Other "plug-in" experimental AMC vehicles developed with Gulton included the Amitron (1967) and the similar Electron (1977). More battery-electric concept cars appeared over the years, such as the Scottish Aviation Scamp (1965),[34] the Enfield 8000 (1966)[35] and two electric versions of General Motors gasoline cars, the Electrovair (1966) and Electrovette (1976).[36] None of them entered production.

On 31 July 1971, an electric car received the unique distinction of becoming the first manned vehicle to drive on the Moon; that car was the Lunar rover, which was first deployed during the Apollo 15 mission. The "moon buggy" was developed by Boeing and GM subsidiary Delco Electronics (co-founded by Kettering)[26] featured a DC drive motor in each wheel, and a pair of 36-volt silver-zinc potassium hydroxide non-rechargeable batteries.

1990s: Revival of interest[edit]

After years outside the limelight, the energy crises of the 1970s and 1980s brought about renewed interest in the perceived independence electric cars had from the fluctuations of the hydrocarbon energy market. At the 1990 Los Angeles Auto Show, General Motors President Roger Smith unveiled the GM Impact electric concept car, along with the announcement that GM would build electric cars for sale to the public.

The Honda EV Plus, one of the cars introduced as a result of the CARB ZEV mandate.

In the early 1990s, the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the government of California's "clean air agency", began a push for more fuel-efficient, lower-emissions vehicles, with the ultimate goal being a move to zero-emissions vehicles such as electric vehicles.[37][38] In response, automakers developed electric models, including the Chrysler TEVan, Ford Ranger EV pickup truck, GM EV1 and S10 EV pickup, Honda EV Plus hatchback, Nissan lithium-battery Altra EV miniwagon and Toyota RAV4 EV. The automakers were accused of pandering to the wishes of CARB in order to continue to be allowed to sell cars in the lucrative Californian market, while failing to adequately promote their electric vehicles in order to create the impression that the consumers were not interested in the cars, all the while joining oil industry lobbyists in vigorously protesting CARB's mandate.[38] GM's program came under particular scrutiny; in an unusual move, consumers were not allowed to purchase EV1s, but were instead asked to sign closed-end leases, meaning that the cars had to be returned to GM at the end of the lease period, with no option to purchase, despite lessor interest in continuing to own the cars.[38] Chrysler, Toyota, and a group of GM dealers sued CARB in Federal court, leading to the eventual neutering of CARB's ZEV Mandate.

After public protests by EV drivers' groups upset by the repossession of their cars, Toyota offered the last 328 RAV4-EVs for sale to the general public during six months, up until 22 November 2002. Almost all other production electric cars were withdrawn from the market and were in some cases seen to have been destroyed by their manufacturers.[38] Toyota continues to support the several hundred Toyota RAV4-EV in the hands of the general public and in fleet usage. GM famously de-activated the few EV1s that were donated to engineering schools and museums.

The first generation Toyota Prius went on sale in Japan in December 1997.

Throughout the 1990s, interest in fuel-efficient or environmentally friendly cars declined among Americans, who instead favored sport utility vehicles, which were affordable to operate despite their poor fuel efficiency thanks to lower gasoline prices. American automakers chose to focus their product lines around the truck-based vehicles, which enjoyed larger profit margins than the smaller cars which were preferred in places like Europe or Japan. In 1999, the Honda Insight hybrid car became the first hybrid to be sold in North America since the little-known Woods hybrid of 1917.

Hybrid electric vehicles, which featured a combined gasoline and electric powertrain, were seen as a balance, offering an environmentally friendly image and improved fuel economy, without being hindered by the low range of electric vehicles, albeit at an increased price over comparable gasoline cars. Sales were poor, the lack of interest attributed to the car's small size and the lack of necessity for a fuel-efficient car at the time. The 2000s energy crisis brought renewed interest in hybrid and electric cars. In America, sales of the Toyota Prius (which had been on sale since 1999 in some markets) jumped, and a variety of automakers followed suit, releasing hybrid models of their own. Several began to produce new electric car prototypes, as consumers called for cars that would free them from the fluctuations of oil prices.

The GEM neighborhood electric vehicle was at one point the world's top selling electric vehicle, with 45,000 units sold through 2010.

In response to a lack of large-automaker participation in the electric car industry, a number of small companies cropped up in their place, designing and marketing electric cars for the public. In 1994, the REVA Electric Car Company was established in Bangalore, India, as a joint venture between the Maini Group India and AEV of California. After seven years of research and development, it launched the REVAi an all-electric small micro car, known as the G-Wiz i in the United Kingdom, in 2001. The car was powered by lead–acid batteries, and in January 2009, a new model was launched, the REVA L-ion. It is similar to the REVAi but powered by high performance lithium-ion batteries, which reduce the car's curb weight.[39] In many countries the REVAi does not meet the criteria to qualify as a highway-capable motor vehicle, and fits into other classes, such as neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV) in the United States and heavy quadricycle in Europe.[40] The REVA sold more than 4,000 vehicles worldwide by March 2011 and was available in 26 countries.[41][42] Sales in the UK, its main market, ended by late 2011.[43] Production ended in 2012 and was replaced by the Mahindra e2o in 2013.[44]

Th!nk City and Buddy in Oslo, Norway

Most electric vehicles in the world roads are low-speed, low-range neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs). Pike Research estimated there were almost 479,000 NEVs on the world roads in 2011.[45] As of July 2006, there were between 60,000 and 76,000 low-speed battery-powered vehicles in use in the United States, up from about 56,000 in 2004.[46] North America's top selling NEV is the Global Electric Motorcars (GEM) vehicles, with more than 50,000 units sold worldwide by mid 2014.[47] The world's two largest NEV markets in 2011 were the United States, with 14,737 units sold, and France, with 2,231 units.[48] Other micro electric cars sold in Europe was the Kewet, since 1991, and replaced by the Buddy, launched in 2008.[49] Also the Th!nk City was launched in 2008 but production was halted due to financial difficulties.[50] Production restarted in Finland in December 2009.[51] The Th!nk was sold in several European countries and the U.S.[52][53] In June 2011 Think Global filed for bankruptcy and production was halted.[54] The new owner has scheduled to restart production in early 2012 with a refined Think City.[55] Worldwide sales reached 1,045 units by March 2011.[56] A total of 200,000 low-speed small electric cars were sold in China in 2013, most of which are powered by lead-acid batteries. These electric vehicles not considered by the government as new energy vehicles due to safety and environmental concerns, and consequently, do not enjoy the same benefits as highway legal plug-in electric cars.[57]

2000s to present: Modern highway-capable electric cars[edit]

Tesla Roadster recharging from a conventional outlet.

The global economic recession in the late 2000s led to increased calls for automakers to abandon fuel-inefficient SUVs, which were seen as a symbol of the excess that caused the recession, in favor of small cars, hybrid cars, and electric cars. California electric car maker Tesla Motors began development in 2004 on the Tesla Roadster, which was first delivered to customers in 2008.[58] The Roadster was the first highway-capable all-electric vehicle in serial production available in the United States. Since 2008 Tesla has sold more than 2,100 Roadsters in 31 countries through December 2011.[59] The Roadster was also the first production automobile to use lithium-ion battery cells and the first production all-electric car to travel more than 200 miles (320 km) per charge.[60] Tesla expects to sell the Roadster until early 2012, when its supply of Lotus Elise gliders is expected to run out, as its contract with Lotus Cars for 2,500 gliders expired at the end of 2011.[61][62] Tesla stopped taking orders for the Roadster in the U.S. market in August 2011,[63][64] and the 2012 Tesla Roadster will be sold in limited numbers only in Europe, Asia and Australia.[59][65] The next generation is expected to be introduced in 2014[66]

The Mitsubishi i-MiEV was launched in Japan in 2009.

The Mitsubishi i-MiEV was launched in Japan for fleet customers in July 2009, and for individual customers in April 2010,[67][68][69] followed by sales to the public in Hong Kong in May 2010, and Australia in July 2010 via leasing.[70][71] The i-MiEV was launched in Europe in December 2010, including a rebadged version sold in Europe as Peugeot iOn and Citroën C-Zero.[72][73] The market launch in the Americas began in Costa Rica in February 2011, followed by Chile in May 2011.[74][75] Fleet and retail customer deliveries in the U.S. and Canada began in December 2011.[76][77][78] Accounting for all vehicles of the iMiEV brand, Mitsubishi reports around 27,200 units sold or exported since 2009 through December 2012, including the minicab MiEVs sold in Japan, and the units rebadged and sold as Peugeot iOn and Citroën C-Zero in the European market.[79]

Senior leaders at several large automakers, including Nissan and General Motors, have stated that the Roadster was a catalyst which demonstrated that there is pent-up consumer demand for more efficient vehicles. GM vice-chairman Bob Lutz said in 2007 that the Tesla Roadster inspired him to push GM to develop the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid sedan prototype that aims to reverse years of dwindling market share and massive financial losses for America's largest automaker.[80] In an August 2009 edition of The New Yorker, Lutz was quoted as saying, "All the geniuses here at General Motors kept saying lithium-ion technology is 10 years away, and Toyota agreed with us – and boom, along comes Tesla. So I said, 'How come some tiny little California startup, run by guys who know nothing about the car business, can do this, and we can't?' That was the crowbar that helped break up the log jam."[81]

The most immediate result of this was the announcement of the 2010 release of the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid car that represents the evolution of technologies pioneered by the GM EV1 of the 1990s.[26] The Volt can travel for up to 40 miles (64 km) on battery power alone before activating its gasoline-powered engine to run a generator which re-charges its batteries. Deliveries of the Volt began in the United States in December 2010, and by late 2011 was released in Canada and Europe. Deliveries of its sibling, the Opel Ampera, began in Europe February 2012.

The first Nissan Leaf delivered in the U.S. went to a customer in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Nissan Leaf, introduced in Japan and the United States in December 2010, became the first modern all-electric, zero tailpipe emission five door family hatchback to be produced for the mass market from a major manufacturer.[82][83] As of January 2013, the Leaf is also available in Australia, Canada and 17 European countries.[84]

The Better Place network was the first modern commercial deployment of the battery swapping model. The Renault Fluence Z.E. was the first mass production electric car enable with switchable battery technology and sold for the Better Place network in Israel and Denmark.[85] Better Place launched its first battery-swapping station in Israel, in Kiryat Ekron, near Rehovot in March 2011. The battery exchange process took five minutes.[86] As of December 2012, there were 17 battery switch stations fully operational in Denmark enabling customers to drive anywhere across the country in an electric car.[87] By late 2012 the company began to suffer financial difficulties, and decided to put on hold the roll out in Australia and reduce its non-core activities in North America, as the company decided to concentrate its resources on its two existing markets.[88][89][90] On 26 May 2013, Better Place filed for bankruptcy in Israel.[91] The company's financial difficulties were caused by the high investment required to develop the charging and swapping infrastructure, about US$850 million in private capital, and a market penetration significantly lower than originally predicted by Shai Agassi. Less than 1,000 Fluence Z.E. cars were deployed in Israel and around 400 units in Denmark.[92][93]

The Smart electric drive, Wheego Whip LiFe, Mia electric, Volvo C30 Electric, and the Ford Focus Electric were launched for retail customers during 2011. The BYD e6, released initially for fleet customers in 2010, began reatail sales in Shenzhen, China in October 2011.[94] The Bolloré Bluecar was released in December 2011 and deployed for use in the Autolib' carsharing service in Paris.[95] Leasing to individual and corporate customers began in October 2012 and is limited to the Île-de-France area.[96] In February 2011, the Mitsubishi i MiEV became the first electric car to sell more than of more than 10,000 units, including the models badged in Europe as Citroën C-Zero and Peugeot. The record was officially registered by Guinness World Records. Several months later, the Nissan Leaf overtook the i MiEV as the best selling all-electric car ever,[97] and by February 2013 global sales of the Leaf reached the 50,000 unit milestone.[84]

Delivery of the first Tesla Model S in June 2012.

Models released to the market in 2012 and 2013 include the BMW ActiveE, Coda, Renault Fluence Z.E., Tesla Model S, Honda Fit EV, Toyota RAV4 EV, Renault Zoe, Roewe E50, Mahindra e2o, Chevrolet Spark EV, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Electric Drive, Fiat 500e, Volkswagen e-Up!, BMW i3, and Kandi EV. Toyota released the Scion iQ EV in the U.S. (Toyota eQ in Japan) in 2013. The car production is limited to 100 units. The first 30 units were delivered to the University of California, Irvine in March 2013 for use in its Zero Emission Vehicle-Network Enabled Transport (ZEV-NET) carsharing fleet. Toyota announced that 90 out of the 100 vehicles produced globally will be placed in American carsharing demonstration projects and the rest in Japan.[98]

The Coda sedan went out of production in 2013, after selling only about 100 units in California. Its manufacturer, Coda Automotive, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on 1 May 2013. The company stated that it expects to emerge from the bankruptcy process to focus on energy storage solutions as it has decided to abandon car manufacturing.[99]

The Tesla Model S ranked as the top selling plug-in electric car in North America during the first quarter of 2013 with 4,900 cars sold, ahead of the Chevrolet Volt (4,421) and the Nissan Leaf (3,695).[100] Since its introduction, cumulative sales reached 12,700 units through June 2013, with most units delivered in the U.S. and the rest in Canada.[101][102] European retail deliveries of the Tesla Model S began in Oslo in August 2013,[103] and during its first full month in the market, the Model S ranked as the top selling car in Norway with 616 units delivered, representing a market share of 5.1% of all the new cars sold in the country in September 2013, becoming the first electric car to top the new car sales ranking in any country, and contributing to a record all-electric car market share of 8.6% of new car sales during that month.[104][105] In October 2013, an electric car was the best selling car in the country for a second month in a row. This time was the Nissan Leaf with 716 units sold, representing a 5.6% of new car sales that month.[106][107]

The United States has the largest highway-capable plug-in electric car fleet in the world, with sales of over 250,000 units between 2008 and August 2014.[108]

The Renault–Nissan Alliance reached global sales of 100,000 all-electric vehicles in July 2013.[109] The 100,000th customer was a U.S. student who bought a Nissan Leaf in Atlanta, Georgia early in July 2013.[110] In mid January 2014, global sales of the Nissan Leaf reached the 100,000 unit milestone, representing a 45% market share of worldwide pure electric vehicles sold since 2010. The 100,000th car was delivered to a British customer.[111] As of November 2014, the Renault–Nissan Alliance has sold over 200,000 electric vehicles globally, representing a 58% share of the global light-duty all-electric market segment. Global sales are led by the Nissan Leaf with 148,700 units sold worldwide since December 2010, while Renault has sold 51,500 electric vehicles since October 2011.[112] As of October 2014, Renault sales are led by the Renault Zoe with 16,397 units, followed by the Kangoo Z.E. electric utility van with 15,782 units sold, and the Twizy heavy quadricycle with 14,160 units.[113]

As of June 2014, there were over 500,000 plug-in electric passenger cars and utility vans in the world, with the U.S. leading plug-in electric car sales with a 45% share of global sales.[114][115] As of September 2014, the United States has the largest fleet of highway-capable plug-in electric vehicles in the world, with over 250,000 plug-in electric cars sold since 2008, with California accounting for 40% of nationwide total sales with more than 100,000 plug-in cars sold.[108]

Plug-in models released to the retail customers in 2014 include the BMW Brilliance Zinoro 1E, Zotye Zhidou E20, Kia Soul EV, Volkswagen e-Golf, Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive, and Venucia e30.

Select historical production vehicles[edit]

Selected list of battery electric vehicles include (in chronological order):[116]

Name Production years Number produced Top Speed Cost Range mpg US
L/100 km
mpg US
L/100 km
Baker Electric[117] 1899–1915 ? 14 mph
23 km/h
US$2300 or €1,700 50 mi
80 km
Studebaker Electric[118] 1902–1912 ? ? ? ?
Detroit Electric[119] 1907–1939 13,000[120] 20 mph
32 km/h
>US$3,000 or €2,250 depending on options 80 mi (130 km)
Henney Kilowatt[121] 1958–1960 <100 60 mph
97 km/h
? ?
Sebring-Vanguard Citicar 1974–1982 4,444
including variants[122]
38 mph
61 km/h
? Approximately
40 mi (64 km)
Sinclair C5 1985 14,000 15 mph
24 km/h
£399 20 mi (32 km)
Škoda Favorit ELTRA 151L & 151 Pick-Up[123] 1992–1994 <1,100, perhaps 20 surviving 50 mph
80 km/h (limiter)
< US $20,000, without subsidy 50 mi
80 km
General Motors EV1[124] 1996–2003 1,117 80 mph
129 km/h
~ US$40,000 or €30,000, without subsidies 160 mi
257 km
Chevrolet S10 EV[125] 1997–1998 492 73 mph
118 km/h
~ US$40,000 or €30,000, without subsidies 90 mi
144 km
Honda EV Plus[126] 1997–1999 ~300 80+ mph
130+ km/h
US$455 or €340/month for 36-month lease; or $53,000 or €40,000 without subsidies 80–110 mi
130–180 km
Toyota RAV4 EV[127] 1997–2002 1,249 78 mph
125 km/h
US$40,000 or €30,000 without subsidies 87 mi
140 km
Ford Ranger EV[128] 1998–2002 1,500, perhaps 200 surviving ~ US$50,000 or €37,600; subsidized down to $20,000 or €15,000 74 mi
119 km
TH!NK City[129] 1999–2002 1,000+ 56 mph
90 km/h
53 mi
85 km
REVA[130] 2001– 4,000+[41] 45 mph
72 km/h
£8,000, US$15,000 or €11,900 50 mi
80 km
ZAP Xebra[131] 2006–2009 700+ 40 mph
65 km/h[132]
$10,000 or €7,500 25 mi
40 km
Tesla Roadster[133][134][135] 2008–2012 2,500 130 mph
210 km/h [1]
US$109,000 or €99,000 base price [2] 220 mi
350 km
less than 2 cents/mile off peak recharge
Mitsubishi i MiEV
(Peugeot iOn/Citroën C-Zero)
2009– 32,000+
as of July 2014[136]
80 mph
130 km/h
US$29,125 base price[137] 160 km (99 mi) (Japanese cycle)
100 km (62 mi) (EPA cycle)
Nissan Leaf 2010– ~148,700
by November 2014[112]
93 mph
150 km/h
US$35,200 base price [3] 109 mi
175 km (New European Driving Cycle)
Renault Kangoo Z.E. 2011– 14,542
as of June 2014[138]
Bolloré Bluecar 2011– 3,131
as of June 2014[139]
Smart ED
(2nd and 3rd gen)
2012– ~9,000
as of June 2014[140][141][142]
Tesla Model S[143] 2012– Over 40,000
as of June 2014[144][145][146]
130 mph
210 km/h [4]
US$69,900 base price with
60 kW·h battery pack [5]
300 mi
480 km
89 Combined
2.64 Combined
Renault Zoe 2013– 12,631
as of June 2014[138]
Volkswagen e-Up! 2013– 4,952
as of June 2014[147][148]
BMW i3 2013– 10,000
by September 2014.[149]
130 to 160 km (80 to 100 mi)[150]
Kia Soul EV 2014– 93 mi (150 km)[151]
Volkswagen e-Golf 2014– 130 to 190 km (81 to 118 mi)[152]
Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive 2014– 87 mi (140 km)[153]

See also[edit]

Country specific


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  116. ^ Full Size Electric Vehicles http://electricandhybridcars.com/index.php/pages/evmanufactures.html
  117. ^ The first electric car; it was reputedly easy to drive
  118. ^ Studebaker Electrics were available in a variety of body styles, many of which mimicked the bodies that it had long produced for its lucrative passenger carriage line. These included the Stanhope, Victoria, and Surrey. A four-passenger model was introduced in 1904.
  119. ^ Sold mainly to women and physicians.
  120. ^ John Voelcker (2013-03-19). "All-Electric Sports Car Coming Next Month From Detroit Startup?". Green Car Reports. Retrieved 2013-03-19. 
  121. ^ The first modern (transistor-based) electric car and outfitted with modern hydraulic brakes.
  122. ^ "Electric car for the average Joe not far away". Wheels.ca. 2012-09-14. Retrieved 2014-08-09. 
  123. ^ Czech-built (first electric car prog. for eastern block mfr.), exported to Europe and N. America. Lead acid batt. 15 kW·h pack nominal; 84 V system with regen.
  124. ^ For lease only, all recovered from customers by General Motors and most destroyed
  125. ^ Fleet vehicle only. General Motors collected and destroyed most
  126. ^ First BEV from a major automaker without lead-acid batteries. 24 twelve volt NiMH batteries
  127. ^ Some leased and sold on US east and west coasts, supported. Toyota agreed to stop crushing.
  128. ^ Some sold, most leased; almost all recovered and most destroyed. Ford allowed reconditioning and sale of a limited quantity to former leaseholders by lottery.
  129. ^ Two seat, 85 km (52 mi) range, NiCd batteries. Next generation vehicle production planned for fall 2007.
  130. ^ Indian-built city car (sold in England as the "G-Wiz").
  131. ^ Chinese built sedan and truck
  132. ^ Xebra Electric Sedan Reservation $100
  133. ^ 650 scheduled for delivery in 2008, first one delivered 1 February 2008
  134. ^ Tesla Roadster ‘Signature One Hundred’ Series Sells Out
  135. ^ Tesla to open five dealer outlets
  136. ^ Andreas Grimm (2014-08-06). "E-Auto aus Japan für 11.000 Euro" [e-Car from Japan for 11,000 euros]. KFZ-betrieb (in German). Retrieved 2014-08-09. 
  137. ^ Chris Woodyard (2011-12-08). "Mitsubishi delivers its first 'i' electric car". USA Today. Retrieved 2011-12-10. 
  138. ^ a b Groupe Renault (July 2014). "Ventes Mensuelles" [Monthly Sales] (in French). Renault.com. Retrieved 2014-07-27.  Includes passenger and light utility variants. Click on "Ventes mensuelles du groupe (décembre 2011) (xls, 183 Ko)" "Ventes mensuelles (décembre 2012) (xls, 289 Ko)" - Ventes mensuelles (décembre 2013) (xlsx, 227 Ko)" - "Ventes mensuelles (juin 2014) (xls, 217 Ko)" to download the files for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 sales, and open the tab "Sales by Model".
  139. ^ Autoactu.com. "Chiffres de vente & immatriculations de voitures électriques en France" [Sales figures & electric car registrations in France] (in French). Automobile Propre. Retrieved 2014-07-27.  See "Ventes de voitures électriques en 2014/2013/2012/2011."
  140. ^ Jeffrey N. Ross (2012-10-03). "Smart ForTwo Electric Drive will be cheapest EV at $25,000*". Autoblog.com. Retrieved 2014-02-06. 
  141. ^ Jose Pontes (2014-01-30). "World Top 20 December 2013 (Special Edition)". EV Sales. Retrieved 2014-02-06.  A total of 4,130 third generation Smart EDs sold worldwide in 2013.
  142. ^ Jose Pontes (2014-07-30). "World Top 20 June 2014 (Special Edition)". EV Sales. Retrieved 2014-08-02.  A total of 2,384 Smart EDs were sold worldwide in the first half of 2014.
  143. ^ Tesla
  144. ^ Jeff Cobb (2014-01-06). "Tesla Sells 25,000th Model S". HybridCars.com. Retrieved 2014-01-10. 
  145. ^ Ben Klayman (2014-05-07). "Tesla outlook disappoints some on Wall St, shares drop 7 percent". Reuters. Retrieved 2014-05-10.  Sales during 1Q 2014 totaled 6,457 units and production 7,535 units.
  146. ^ Tesla Motors (2014-07-31). "Tesla Motors, Inc. – Second Quarter 2014 Shareholder Letter". Tesla Motors. Retrieved 2014-07-31.  Global sales during 2Q 2014 totaled 7,579 units, and production 8,763 units.
  147. ^ Jose Pontes (2014-01-26). "Europe December 2013". EVSales.com. Retrieved 2014-05-10.  A total of 1,465 e-ups! were sold in Europe 2013.
  148. ^ Jose Pontes (2014-07-28). "Europe June 2014". EVSales.com. Retrieved 2014-08-02.  A total of 3,487 e-Up! and 1,126 Smart EDs were sold in Europe during the first half of 2014.
  149. ^ Jeff Cobb (2014-10-03). "BMW Increasing i3 and i8 Availability In US". HybridCars.com. Retrieved 2014-10-03. 
  150. ^ Jay Cole (2013-07-29). "BMW i3 Range Extender To Offer Up to 87 More Miles, Decreases Performance". InsideEVs.com. Retrieved 2013-07-29. 
  151. ^ U. S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy (2014-09-12). "2015 Kia Soul Electric". Fueleconomy.gov. Retrieved 2014-09-12. 
  152. ^ VW Media Services (2014-02-15). "Volkswagen launches the battery-electric e-Golf in Germany; "Das e-Auto"". Green Car Congress. Retrieved 2014-02-16. 
  153. ^ U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy (2014-07-25). "2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive". Fueleconomy.gov. Retrieved 2014-07-26. 

External links[edit]