1903, The Fritchle Automobile & Battery Company was founded
Oliver Parker Fritchle was an American chemist who founded a battery and electric car company in Denver. One of his most popular products was the Fritchle Victoria Phaeton, accompanied by very innovative marketing strategies to publicise its advantages. It had 10 horse-power, a top speed of 40 km/hr and a driving range of 90 kilometres.
In 1912 he opened a shop in New York and created a fever for the electric car which filled the streets with these vehicles.
1911, Detroit Electric was consolidated as a manufacturer of electric vehicles
The company had been founded a decade earlier, but with involvement of Henry Ford y Thomas Edison, Detroit Electric ended up selling a thousand electric cars a year during the decade from 1911-1921. Great personalities such as John D. Rockefeller boasted of having one of their models in their garages.
The cars were powered by Edison's nickel-iron batteries and reached 130 km/hr with a single recharge.
The outbreak of the First World War tilted the automotive industry towards combustion engines, and the electric car was destined to oblivion.
1959, the Henney Kilowatt was first marketed
Although the industry was focussed on fossil fuels, the development of electric prototypes was never abandoned. In the 1950s, Renault received an unusual request: Russell Feldman, Chairman of the National Union Electric Corporation in the United States, owner of the Henney coachworks and the Exide battery factory, asked for a prototype electric vehicle to promote this energy.
With the collaboration of Victor Wouk, Lee DuBridge and Linus Pauling they managed to assemble an electric motor in the boot at the front of the body of a Renault Dauphine, which was especially light and suitable for the power produced by an electric engine. It reached up to 65 km/hr, with a driving range of 75 kilometres. Only about 60 units of the Henney Kilowatt were manufactured, which was a milestone in resurrecting the idea of the electric vehicle providing important innovations that influenced the design of the electric cars that would appear later.
1966, General Motors launched the Chevrolet Electrovair
The Boston-based company had long been researching how to adapt an electric engine with sufficient power for a lightweight body with ample boot space. The model chosen was the Covair. It was tested in Monza in 1966 and exceeded 120 km/hr, with 115 horsepower. It had a driving range of up to 80 kilometres. It was never marketed, but its technology was undoubtedly used to develop other models such as the Impact Concept Car of 1990, even the vehicles that were driven on the surface of the Moon accompanying Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong in 1969.
1996, the experience of the General Motors EV-1
Since the 1960s, General Motors had continued to innovate with regard to the electric car. In 1996 they launched the EV-1 model (Experimental Vehicle 1), in response to increasing awareness for the protection of the Environment and the fight against the emission of greenhouse gases that had started in the State of California.
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) established an environmental regulation that obliged the 7 large car manufacturers to dedicate 2% of their annual production to 0-emission vehicles in 1998, 5% from 2001 and 10% from 2003 in order to be able to continue selling their products in California, in exchange for financial aid to manufacturers.
General Motors then launched the EV-1, which was a combination of its legacy in innovation, design and the manufacture of electric cars, and it came to market a thousand units, mainly for car hire.
In parallel to this, other brands launched electric cars such as the Toyota Rav4 EV (1997), the Ford Range EV (1993), the Ford Think City (2001) and the Nissan Passadena Hypermini (1998). In 1998 there were 300 public charging stations in Southern California, mostly in shopping areas, to charge these cars.
In 2003, a change of policies in the State of California led to the withdrawal of aid and the repeal of regulations, so manufacturers not only abandoned the projects, but removed and destroyed the vehicles since it was not profitable to support them in case of breakdown.
However, users had been very satisfied with their vehicles, which performed well and were in line with their beliefs with regard to sustainability, and a lot of people got together to request that they be allowed to buy and keep them, but without success.
In 2004, General Motors donated one of these vehicles to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington and it can be seen in their museums.
2003, Tesla Motors (now Tesla Inc) was founded
Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning were two engineers who were committed to sustainability. They created Tesla Motors with the idea of designing affordable electric utility vehicles. It is a strange fact that Tesla emerged the same year that large automotive companies put aside their electric car projects, highlighting the need for new strategies for innovation in this field, responding to a growing demand by society for zero-emission vehicles.
Since its inception, Tesla has represented the vanguard for the consolidation of the electric vehicle to this day. It has launched a number of models that have become the best-selling electric vehicles. The Tesla Model 3 sold nearly half a million copies worldwide in 2021.