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Between 1832 and 1839 (the exact year is uncertain), Robert Anderson of Scotland invented the first crude electric carriage, powered by non-rechargeable primary cells.
In 1835, Professor Sibrandus Stratingh of Groningen, the Netherlands and his assistant Christopher Becker created a small-scale electrical car, powered by non-rechargeable primary cells. Using the physical principles developed by the Brit Michael Faraday, Stratingh and Becker constructed an electric cart which was the forerunner of the electric car. Stratingh was unable to continue his research into electromagnetic vehicles, as he died on 15 February 1841.
Scotsman Robert Davidson made a model electric locomotive in 1837. Davidson made small electric motors on his own principles, though William H. Taylor in the U.S. made similar motors from 1838. Both men worked independently, without knowledge of the other's work. Davidson's Galvani of 1842 was a four-wheeled machine, powered by zinc-acid batteries (galvanic cells). It was tested on the Edinburgh-Glasgow line in September 1842 and, although found capable of carrying itself at 4mph, it did not haul any passengers or goods.
It was calculated that consuming zinc in a battery was forty times more expensive than burning coal in a firebox and later experiments in America proved these figures correct. Battery powered locomotives were not economically viable, a point lost on some steam engineers who smashed the 'Galvani' in its shed, fearing the potential competition to their new trade.
Financially viable electric traction was developed from the 1860s when the dynamo was invented and perfected. Davidson lived to see these developments - his reaction to the opening of the City & South London Tube was to commission a new set of business cards, that read 'Robert Davidson : Father of the Electric Locomotive'.
A patent for the use of rails as conductors of electric current was granted in England in 1840, and similar patents were issued to Lilley and Colten in the United States in 1847. Rechargeable batteries that provided a viable means for storing electricity on board a vehicle did not come into being until later.
An electric-powered two-wheel cycle was put on display at the 1867 World Exposition in Paris by the Austrian inventor Franz Kravogl. France and Great Britain were the first nations to support the widespread development of electric vehicles. The lack of natural fossil resources in Switzerland resulted in the tiny European nation's rapid electrification of its railway network to reduce its dependence on foreign energy.
In 1881, Camille Alphonse Faure patented a method of coating lead plates with a paste of lead oxides, sulphuric acid and water, which was then cured by being gently warmed in a humid atmosphere. The curing process caused the paste to change to a mixture of lead sulphates which adhered to the lead plate. During charging the cured paste was converted into electrochemically active material (the "active mass") and gave a substantial increase in capacity compared with Planté's battery. This was a significant breakthrough that led to the industrial manufacture of lead-acid batteries and a more efficient and reliable model which had great success in early electric cars.
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