Electric cars are much older than you think

Egger-Lohner C.2 Phaeton by Porsche

Egger-Lohner C.2 Phaeton by Porsche Photo: Porsche Newsroom

We have to go back to the 19th century, 1884 to be precise, that was the year in which the world’s first electric vehicle (EV) went into production.

The man responsible for the world’s first EV was Thomas Parker, the British inventor who was also behind the electrification of the London Underground. He created the first EV in an early attempt to reduce the smog and pollution which plagued London at the time. So nothing much has changed with London’s congestion charge and the UK goverment pushing everyone towards EVs still making the headlines today.

Going back to the beginning and in 1889, Flocken Elektrowagen, built by the inventor Flocken, hit the streets of Germany and was the first known electric car to be driven on public roads.

The Flocken Elektrowagen
The Flocken Elektrowagen
Photo: Wikimedia CC

In 1898, Ferdinand Porsche, today a name associated with high end sports cars, designed the Egger-Lohner C.2 Phaeton. The vehicle was powered by an electric motor and reached a top speed of 25 kilometres an hour.

Electric taxis

In 1899, Porsche developed the electric wheel hub motor and in 1900, launched the first Lohner-Porsche Electromobile, which could reach a top speed of 37 kilometres an hour, at the Expo in Paris. The reason the company gave at the time for producing this early EV was because, “the air was ruthlessly spoiled by the large number of petrol engines in use”.

Mercedes-Benz also produced an electric model in 1906 called the Mercedes Mixte. The car was frequently used as a taxi in Germany’s cities and even took part in races during 1907.

Limited range

By the early 1900s, as many as one third of all vehicles on the road in the USA were electric. But that was about to change with the arrival of a man synonimous with modern motor cars, Henry Ford. The mass production of petrol driven cars, and in particular, the Model T, meant that by the 1920s, EVs had all but disappeared with car owners preferring the new accesible models.

Even back then, the public cited the same reasons as now for switching to petrol: despite improvements in battery technology, EVs still had limited range and the charging infrastructure made anything but very short journeys impractical.

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Written by

Kevin Fraser Park

Kevin was born in Scotland and worked in marketing, running his own businesses in UK, Italy and, for the last 8 years, here in Spain. He moved to the Costa del Sol in 2016 working initially in real estate. He has a passion for literature and particularly the English language which is how he got into writing.