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An electric car timeline

Henry Stancu reports on the history of the electric car.

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1830s – Scotsman Robert Anderson and American Thomas Davenport have each been credited with building the first vehicles powered by an electric current. Both rolled on tracks and had non-rechargeable batteries.

1859 – In France, Gaston Plante invents the rechargeable lead-acid battery.

1867 – A two-wheeled electric cycle is invented by Austrian Franz Kravog and displayed at the World Exposition in Paris.

1881 – Frenchman Camille Faure improves Plante?s battery, which will later be used in autos. Gustave Trouve?s three-wheeled electric car d?buts at the International Exhibition of Electricity in Paris.

1884 – Briton Thomas Parker, who electrified the London Underground system and tramway lines, perfects an electric car.

1891 – An electric car is built by William Morrison in Des Moines, Iowa.

1893 – Various models of electric cars, including Morrison?s invention, are exhibited at the Chicago World?s Fair.

1896 – First U.S. electric car dealership, American Electric, opens in Chicago.

1897 – Electric taxis appear on New York City streets. Pope Manufacturing Co., in Hartford, Conn., becomes the first firm to build electric cars.

1900 – About a third of all cars produced in the U.S. are electric-powered.

1908 – Henry Ford?s Model-T goes into mass production reducing the cost of vehicles, increasing the popularity of gas-powered autos and ushering in the decline of electric cars.

1912 – The invention of the electric starter by Charles Kettering means no more hand cranking to fire up combustion engines and provides even less reason to drive a short-range electric car.

1920s – As more and better roads are built, electric autos lose popularity due to cheap gas, more horsepower and longer range of the combustion engines.

1960s – Except for golf carts and other short distance vehicles, the need for electric cars seems long gone but after the U.S. Congress suggests the use of electric autos as a way to reduce air pollution, 33 million Americans surveyed say they are interested in electric cars.

1970s – Soaring oil prices due to the 1973 Arab oil embargo and a growing environmental movement sparks renewed interest in electric cars.

1972 – New York scientist Victor Wouk, hailed as the ?Godfather of the Hybrid? and the brother of writer Herman Wouk, constructs a hybrid car using a new Buick Skylark provided by General Motors for a federal clean car program. In 1976, though, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency axes the program.

1974 – The American-built CitiCar debuts at a Washington D.C. EV symposium and Vanguard-Sebring is ranked as the sixth-largest U.S. carmaker the following year, but production ceases a few years later.

1988 – GM teams up with California tech firm AeroVironment to design EV1.

1997 – World?s first mass-produced hybrid, the Toyota Prius, sells 18,000 units in the first year.

2000 – By now, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, GM and Ford are producing a limited number of EVs, some available on a lease-only basis.

2003 – GM announces it will reclaim all of its leased EV1s by the end of the next year, saying that it can no longer provide parts for repairs.

2006 – With a near $100,000 price tag, the Tesla Roadster is unveiled at San Francisco Auto Show with production slated for 2008.

2009 – Nissan announces that the first all-electric Leaf, with a range of about 160 km per full charge and a top speed of about 145 km/h, is scheduled to be sold in Japan, the U.S. and Europe the following year. GM and Mitsubishi announce similar plans for the Volt and iMiEV.

2011 – First Leafs, Volts and iMiEVs are sold in Canada.

  • An electric car timeline

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