The History Of Electric And Hybrid Cars

The History Of Electric And Hybrid Cars

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Submitted by: Tomm Jones

We’ve all seen the commercials talking about how technology was all going to be about flying cars and cold fusion. In reality, though, we have our very own science-fiction-turned-fact in looking at hybrid vehicles which are taking over. They truly are efficient and are money-saving at some levels, but most consumers assume that the concept of electric motors is brand new, but the first experiments with electric motors began in the mid-1800s. Going as far back as 1832, locomotives and carriages were already using electric motors, considering that lead-acid batteries were already being used.

In the 1890s, though, the first electric cars were actually built at home in the U.S. and actually shown to the general public. To thank for that first electric car we have William Morrison, whose electric car was one of the first to be successfully tested. By the time 1893 had rolled around, there are already several models of electric-powered cars that were showcased in Chicago.

If you have the impression that electric cars are solely known to the public as the new economic fad, think again. Made by Pope manufacturing company in New York City, 1897 saw electric taxis around the city. In fact, by 1899, Thomas Edison was also involved with these ideas, even though he never saw his developments come to fruition.


In 1900, 28% f vehicles in the U.S. were powered by electric motors, and over one-third of the driving populations in New York City, Boston and Chicago were actually driving electric cars. Had Henry Ford’s new automobile, the gas-powered Model T Ford, not come along eight years later, the electric car could have possibly been the more common vehicle. Unfortunately, Henry Ford’s Model T had taken over electric cars by far by the 1920s.

Around 1966, environmental awareness actually became a concern, prompting the US Congress to actually pass legislation regarding pollution, air cleanliness concerns, not to mention rising gas prices. As a result, the popularity and demand for electric cars has increased.

While most consumers think of old hybrids as being the 1998 Toyota Prius, the first actual hybrid vehicle was constructed from a Buick Skylark by a man named Victor Wouk in 1972. The Federal Clear Car Incentive Program in 1970 brought forward this need for hybrid cars, and Wouk’s hybrid was no different, having been built specifically in response to this Act. Later, in 1974, Vanguard-Sebring built an electric vehicle known as the CitiCar, and was another attempt to respond to the Incentive Program. Unfortunately, the company and program were both out of the picture by 1980.

Although there was an actual act passed by Congress to research and develop hybrid vehicles in 1976, General Motors didn’t actually start its research on their first hybrid vehicle, the EVI, until 1988. Thankfully, the entire country got a kick in the pants when California passed a Zero Emission Mandate in 1990 that required at least 2% of vehicles be ZEV compliant by 1993, and then 10% of those vehicles by 2003. Unfortunately, both of those goals had not been met by 2003, which still left the country in a position to research hybrids.

Finally, in 1997, Toyota was able to make a breakthrough, and the Toyota Prius was released to the commercial mass-market, selling over 18,000 vehicles in one year alone. It didn’t take long after that, and in the next three years, Chevy, Toyota, Nissan, Ford, and GM began to release hybrid vehicles, but they were full of kinks and problems. By 2004, most of them were scrapped and recycled.

In 2006, hybrid vehicles began to see a resurgence in production. This time, the kinks were worked out and now, hybrids will soon become the new standard. The fact of the matter, though, is that while the packaging may be new, the actual technology behind the hybrid has spent a century being developed.

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