Electric cars are actually nothing new. They've been around since the 1800s, and for a moment there seemed like the better, cleaner alternative to internal combustion. With a new generation of electrics on the way, we take a look back at some earlier EVs.
GM Urban Electric Car
Lunar Roving Vehicle
Ford Ranger EV
Honda EV Plus
Chevrolet S10 EV
Nissan Altra EV
Toyota RAV4 EV
GM Electrovair I - 1964
GM Electrovair II - 1966
Le Jamais Contente
2010 BMW 1 Series Active-E
- Enfield 8000
- GM Urban Electric...
- Lunar Roving Vehicle
- Henney Kilowatt
- Ford Ranger EV
- Chrysler TEVan
- Honda EV Plus
- GM EV1
- Chevrolet S10 EV
- Nissan Altra EV
- Toyota RAV4 EV
- Detroit Electric
- GM Electrovair I...
- GM Electrovair II...
- Baker Electric
- Le Jamais Contente
- 2010 BMW 1 Series...
- Reva G-Wiz
The Isle of Wight is a quirky, quaint little place so it makes sense that they would build this. The British company built 120 of these EVs, all powered by 6 kW (8 hp) electric motors. The 8000’s range was about 64 km. Later, production was transferred to Greece after the operation was purchased by Greek Neorion. (Photo: Skartsis, Wikimedia)
Before there was the EV1 (more on that later) there was this. Two of them were built just for a 1973 conference on “Low Pollution Power System Development.” We’re not sure what happened to them.
The first car on the Moon was an electric vehicle. It was built by Boeing, at a final program cost of $38 million. Four “LRVs” were built, and three went into space with Apollo 15, 16 and 17. Astronaut Eugene Cernan holds the unofficial lunar land speed record, driving an LRV at 18 km/h across the surface of the Moon.
Not a bad looking little car this one. Introduced in the 1959 model year, it could reach speeds of up to 64 km/h and travel 64 km on a single charge. Later, that 36-volt system was replaced with a 72-volt unit, improving speed and range. Less than 100 ever made it onto the roads.
Ford produced an electric version of the compact Ranger pickup from 1998 to 2002. Some 1,500 units were made during that period. Most were leased, and then recalled. But apparently a handful were sold outright. The cost was originally $52,700 but thanks to incentives, the lease payments were as low as $155/month. (Photo: Leonard G., Wikimedia)
These minivans were produced here in Canada, at Chrysler’s Windsor Assembly Plant in Ontario. It had seating for five and could travel at highway speeds, but the TEVan listed at $120,000 when new and so only 56 were made. Production ended in 1995.
One of the first mainstream EVs to use something other than lead acid batteries. It was built from 1997-1999 using the then-advanced NiMH (Nickel-metal hydride) batteries. Honda stopped production when its Hybrid Insight hit the market.
This is one of the most controversial cars in history. GM leased 2,234 EV1s to eager consumers in the ’90s. The car was light and very aerodynamic and even modestly quick. It had a range of 80 km, later improved to 160 km. But, GM killed the program in 2003, refusing to let customers buy out the leases, and crushed most of the cars.
Intended for fleet use, this was a factory-built battery-electric version of Chevy’s S10 pickup. It came with an 85 kW electric motor, based on GM’s own EV1. The battery packs were installed between the frame rails of the chassis. Only 60 were sold outright. (Photo: Mike Weston, Wikimedia)
It had an impressive range of 230 km on a single charge thanks to advanced lithium-ion batteries made by Sony. It’s notable for being the first production EV to use that type of battery. Only 200 Altra EVs were ever made, and most went to fleet customers. (Photo: Tennen-Gas, Wikimedia)
Toyota built nearly 1,500 electric versions of its popular RAV4 SUV between 1997 and 2003. Some 328 units were sold to the general public via a special website in 2002. A second-generation RAV4 EV is scheduled to go on sale later this year, with a Tesla electric drivetrain underneath the Toyota chassis.
The company was founded in 1907 and was one of the earliest makers of electric cars – or, any cars for that matter. Detroit Electric automobiles could reportedly travel 130 km on a charge, which is impressive even by modern standards. (Photo: Asterion, Wikimedia)
It was built on a Corvair chassis as a testbed for GM’s electric-drivetrain technology. Even GM brass at the time knew current battery technology would make the car impractical – it was simply a study.
Two years later, GM took another crack at an electric test-vehicle and this was the result. Based on the Corvair Monza sedan, it used a silver-zinc battery pack in a massive 532-volt array. The Electrovair II weighed in at 800 lbs heavier than a regular Corvair and was largely still hampered by the battery technology of the day. (Photo: conceptcarz.com)
This Cleveland-based company built and designed an electric car that could travel up to 160 km on a single charge (roughly the same as the modern Nissan LEAF). Thomas Edison bought one of the company’s first cars sometime around 1899.
Believe it or not, the first vehicle to reach 100 km/h was an electric. Its torpedo shaped alloy bodywork sat atop of crude chassis, housing two 25 kW motors. The record breaking run took place in France in the spring of 1899.
Some 2,300 of these were proceeded in the 1970s. Just in time for the oil crisis. It was slow, and not the safest vehicle on the road, but it was simple and easy to live with. (Photo: D0li0, Wikimedia)
Okay, we could go on about really old electric cars all day, but time to get back to some more modern stuff. This electric 1 Series was available to lease, but it was never offered in Canada. But the car was a testbed for the electric drivetrain that will be found in the upcoming i3.
Popular in Britain for a year or two, it wasn’t as stupid as the name suggested. The British government even granted it some special parking rights and provisions. But, then BBC’s good old Top Gear television program found it to be extremely unsafe in a crash and that pretty much ended the car’s popularity. (Photo: Frankh, Wikimedia)