Pressure is growing on UK motorists to ditch their petrol and diesel-powered vehicles and switch to pure-electric cars, but electric vehicles have been around for a lot longer than people think!

Electricity powering a vehicle became a possibility in 1859, with the invention of the lead–acid battery by French physicist Gaston Planté.

The earliest evidence of an electric vehicle is when French inventor Gustave Trouvé drove along a Paris street in April 1881. He fitted a small electric motor to an English James Starley tricycle.

Since then several inventors have developed electric vehicles. Including Thomas Edison (ironically – or maybe not – the arch rival of Nikola Tesla). Here’s a collection of pictures of the earliest electric cars:

Gustave Trouvé's tricycle (1881), world's first electric car.

Gustave Trouvé’s tricycle (1881), world’s first electric car.

Thomas Edison and an electric car in 1913.

Thomas Edison and an electric car in 1913.

Columbia Electric's (1896-99)

Columbia Electric’s (1896-99) “Victoria” electric cab on Pennsylvania Ave., Washington D.C., seen from Lafayette Park in 1905.

A Columbia electric car. 1899.

A Columbia electric car. 1899.

Roger Wallace drives his electric car. 1899.

Roger Wallace drives his electric car. 1899.

Camille Jenatzy drives his self-designed electric car near Paris, France. He was first person to exceed 100 kilometers per hour (62 miles per hour) in a car. 1899.

Camille Jenatzy drives his self-designed electric car near Paris, France. He was first person to exceed 100 kilometers per hour (62 miles per hour) in a car. 1899.

Electric cars of the New York Edison Company line up in Manhattan. 1906.

Electric cars of the New York Edison Company line up in Manhattan. 1906.

An electric street sweeper cleans the roadway in Berlin, Germany. 1907.

An electric street sweeper cleans the roadway in Berlin, Germany. 1907.

German electric car, 1904, with the chauffeur on top.

German electric car, 1904, with the chauffeur on top.

Electric vehicles recharge at a power substation. 1909.

Electric vehicles recharge at a power substation. 1909.

An advertisement for an electric car. 1910.

An advertisement for an electric car. 1910.

A Mercury Arc Rectifier Charging Set powers up an electric car in a garage in Cleveland, Ohio. 1910.

A Mercury Arc Rectifier Charging Set powers up an electric car in a garage in Cleveland, Ohio. 1910.

A woman uses a hand-cranked battery charger to charge her electric Columbia Mark 68 Victoria automobile. The Pope Manufacturing Company made the car in 1906 and the charger in 1912.

A woman uses a hand-cranked battery charger to charge her electric Columbia Mark 68 Victoria automobile. The Pope Manufacturing Company made the car in 1906 and the charger in 1912.

A Detroit Electric car drives on a mountain road between Seattle and Mount Rainier, Washington. 1920.

A Detroit Electric car drives on a mountain road between Seattle and Mount Rainier, Washington. 1920.

(Photo credit: Library of Congress / Schenectady Museum / Hall of Electrical History Foundation / CORBIS / Interim Archive / Getty Images).

Published On: February 19th, 2021 / Categories: EV History /

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