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Electric Vehicles History Part II

Early History

Ányos Jedlik

The invention of the electric vehicle is attributed to various people. In 1828, Ányos Jedlik, a Hungarian who invented an early type of electric motor, created a tiny model car powered by his new motor.





Electric vehicle model by Ányos Jedlik, the inventor of an early type of electric motor (1828, Hungary).

Jedlik's "lightning-magnetic self-rotor" 1827 (The world's first electric motor)

Vermont blacksmith Thomas Davenport:

As early as 1834, Vermont blacksmith Thomas Davenport developed a battery-powered electric motor. He used it to operate a small-model car on a short section of track, paving the way for the later electrification of streetcars.

Davenport's 1833 visit to the Penfield and Taft iron works at Crown Point, New York, where an electromagnet was operating, based on the design of Joseph Henry, was an impetus for his electromagnetic undertakings. Davenport bought an electromagnet from the Crown Point factory and took it apart to see how it worked. Then he forged a better iron core and redid the wiring, using silk from his wife's wedding gown. By the summer of 1834, they succeeded in producing rotary motion.
 (Illustration of Davenport and Smalley's electromagnetic engine as drawn by Turner in 1834 from Franklin Leonard Pope, "The Inventors of the Electric Motor-II., The Electrical Engineer 11 (14 January 1891): 35. Courtesy of Henry Paynter.)

With his wife Emily, and a colleague Orange Smalley, Davenport received the first American patent on an electric machine (motor) in 1837, U. S. Patent No. 132. Their motors ran at up to 600 revolutions per minute, and powered machine tools and a printing press. Due to the high cost of the zinc electrodes required by primary battery power, the motors were commercially unsuccessful and the Davenports went bankrupt.

In 1834, Vermont blacksmith Thomas Davenport, the inventor of the first American DC electrical motor, installed his motor in a small model car, which he operated on a short circular electrified track.

Thomas Davenport, inventor of the DC electric motor, was a self-educated blacksmith with a passion for reading.

Davenport's model of an electric "train." The circular track is 4 feet in diameter. Power was supplied from a stationary battery to the moving electric locomotive, using the rails as conductors for the electricity.

This Patent Office model of Davenport's motor now sits in The Smithsonian Institution in Washington. Reading about experiments and discoveries sparked Davenport's interest, and led to his invention of the electric motor.



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.








Stratingh and Becker electric cart, forerunner of the electric car.

Sibrandus Stratingh (1785-1841) Professor of Chemistry and Technology

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.






Raymond Gaston Plante (1834-1889) French physicist who in 1859 invented the first accumulator or electric storage battery.

In 1859, Gaston Planté (1834-1889) invented the lead-acid cell, the first rechargeable battery.  

Plante's battery became the basis for the batteries used to start our cars today. Not much has changed except the safety aspects of the battery and the size. Plante's original lead-acid battery were enormous and hard to move around. The good thing was that this enormous battery could generate a large current and keep it running for extended periods of time.


Gaston Planté's early model consisted of a spiral roll of two sheets of pure lead separated by a linen cloth, immersed in a glass jar of sulfuric-acid solution. In 1860, he presented a nine-cell lead-acid battery to the Academy of Sciences.

Plante's lead-acid battery (circa 1860). It was initially used to power the lights in train carriages while stopped at a station

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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Some information from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. See Terms of Use for details.Significant material contributed by Galen Handy


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