The history of the first electric cars

Published by on 03.23.2020 - 3 min

Environmentally friendly mobility and electric cars are an increasingly large part of our everyday lives, and our future, but the first electric car was actually created 138 years ago. Let’s take a look at its history!

1881. The first international electricity exposition opens its doors at the Paris Palace of Industry. Alongside Bell’s telephone and Edison’s lightbulbs, the first electric car made a real impression on visitors!

Gustave Trouvé: the inventor of the first electric car in history

The first electric car was built by engineer Gustave Trouvé. A prolific French inventor particularly well known for his work on methods of communication and electric mobility, he demonstrated the qualities of clean, renewable energy in response to steam power and the new combustion engine, already judged to be “dirty and noisy.” Inspired by Scotland’s R. Anderson’s and American T. Davenport’s work on how electric motors could be used in a vehicle, Gustave Trouvé fitted a Siemens motor onto a Coventry tricycle.
For the first time in the history of mobility, the vehicle was powered by rechargeable batteries. Invented in 1859 by Gustave Planté, these rechargeable batteries also offered a longer range; an important asset in the development and large-scale production of the electric cars of the future.

The first electric car to exceed 100 km/h

la jamais contente

Trouvé’s invention inspired the creation of new vehicles. Thus began the grand technological and ecological adventure of electric cars, two years before the appearance of the first combustion-powered vehicle.
In 1899, Belgian Camille Jenatzy left his mark on the global automobile industry with his electric model called the “Jamais Contente” (Never Satisfied), the first automobile to surpass 100 km/h!
In the early 20th century, electric vehicles accounted for one third of the global automobile market. Companies and governments were already established users. Another innovation came in 1911, when American company Detroit Electric designed new batteries for its vehicles, offering them a range of 130 km. However, the mass production of combustion-powered engines, their low cost, the affordable price of gas and WWI halted the expansion of the electric vehicle market.

Renault’s first electric cars

Renault celtaquatre

In the 1920s and 1930s, the production of electric vehicles was primarily focused on commercial vehicles (vans, trucks, trolleybuses, etc.) In 1937, Renault took an interest in electric cars, designing 35 taxis for the Paris World Fair using the chassis from their Celtaquatre model. It was the beginning of a beautiful adventure, but then interrupted by WWII, during which the study and production of electric vehicles would once again come to the forefront due to gas restrictions.

Renault would eventually return to the world of “zero emissions” vehicles in 1959 thanks to the Henney Kilowatt, built on a Renault Dauphine chassis. Intended for the American market and considered to be the first modern electric vehicle, the Kilowatt relaunched Renault’s economic and ecological mobility projects. Faced with pollution, which had risen since the late 1960s, and following the 1973 gas crisis, Renault invested in developing clean cars, designing their first electric city cars on the R4 and R5 chassis.

Another major step came the 1990s with the urban concept car Zoom and the construction of hundreds of electric Clios. Worthy predecessors of the Twizy and ZOE, these electric cars attest to Renault’s avant-garde spirit, strong will and determination to innovate and build a future for electromobility.

The approach became reality in 2012 with the launch of four affordable electric vehicles, the result of a decade-long electromobility strategy which has made the company into the European leader it is today.


*Neither atmospheric emissions of CO2 nor pollutants while driving (excluding wear parts).

Copyright :  CANONNE Bernard