By Matt Wolfe
The rise, fall, and reenergizing of the electric car has created curiosity, controversy, and cutting edge technology. These are some of the highlights of its story.
The first true electric “car” was built by an engineer named Thomas Parker in 1884. Described by some as “the Edison of Europe”, Parker was responsible for the electrification of the London Underground and the trams in Liverpool and Birmingham. His prototype electric cars were manufactured by the Elwell-Parker Company. After an 1888 merger, the company essentially had a monopoly on the British electric car market for the next decade.
The first Porsche designed car wasn’t a rear engine sports coupe, nor was it a “people’s car”. It was actually this rudimentary carriage appearing chassis powered by two electric motors integrated into the front hubs. The platform could easily be adapted to make a 4WD model, but its range was limited by contemporary battery technology.
Thomas Edison was responsible for many bright ideas near the turn of the century, including the Edison Battery. Realizing that the biggest limitation to the electric vehicle was its power source, Edison sought to build a better battery to power a vehicle of his own design. In addition to powering a vehicle of Edison’s own design, one of Edison’s batteries powered this Bailey electric for a 1,000-mile endurance run in 1910.
The Amitron prototype the result of a joint venture between AMC and Gulton Industries. Capable of traveling 150 miles on a single charge, the Amitron was a test bed for innovative technologies like regenerative braking. Measuring in at 85 inches long, the wedge shaped city car did not have any doors, but rather a body that opened like a clamshell.
The EV1 was a groundbreaking car for both GM and the industry in many ways. It was the first mass-produced electric vehicle in over half a century, it was the first GM car designed from the ground up as an electric, and it was the only car to be sold soley under the General Motors name. The EV1 could not be purchased. Rather it was leased to customers in select cities as a “real-world engineering evaluation” study.
Tesla’s first car was a lotus based roadster powered by lithium ion batteries that was capable of traveling 200 miles on one charge. In 2012 Tesla proved it was more than a one-hit wonder with the release of the Model S, a full-size electric luxury car with an impressive driving range that is also capable of savage acceleration.
The Bolt represents the latest evolution of Chevrolet’s electric car development. Sharing a spot in Chevy’s lineup next to the Volt, the Bolt represents a blend of Tesla-like driving range at a Nissan Leaf like price point.