Have Electric Cars Ever Been Popular?

There is still an ongoing discussion about who invented the first electric car. Many different inventors in different countries worked independently on electric motors in the 1820s and 1830s. It is known that Anyos Jedlik had made a model car with an electric motor in 1828. Robert Anderson made an electric powered carriage in around 1832. Professor Stratingh and Thomas Davenport made small electric cars in around the same time. Regardless of who may have invented the electric car first, we know that they became so popular that in 1904, one third of cars in Chicago, New York and Boston were electric cars.

In 1912 Charles Kettering invented an electric starter which could be used with gasoline-powered cars, eliminating the need for a crank start. By 1923 Ford was offering a car that cost only $265 (the equivalent of under $4000 today).

The cheap cost of gasoline and the weight of the batteries needed in early electric cars effectively prevented them from becoming a competitive alternative to gasoline-powered cars at the time.

More about electric cars:

  • About 95% of car journeys taken in the United States are under 30 miles and well within range of a single charge for modern electric cars.
  • Thomas Edison attempted to design a lightweight battery for electric cars in the late 19th century, but the final product turned out to be unreliable.
  • Both London and New York used electric cars in their first motorized taxi services. The London cabs were nicknamed "Hummingbirds" because of the noise they made.

Discussion Comments


anon992588, He said that: "cheap cost."


Interesting historic piece and thankfully not a politically driven one telling us we need to buy a Prius tomorrow.

By the way, my friend is happily working on an updated version of the old time wood burning car. Very cool and he can just go pick up some sticks when he runs out of fuel.


Electric takes precedence over gasoline-powered engines.


You should post why the gas engine won out over the electric.

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