A Long, Rocky Road To Tesla: These Are The Electric Cars That Made It Possible

Elon Musk is a real-life Tony Stark, and his
Tesla Motorshas been in the spotlight a lot lately. We think it’s deserved.

The average American pumps $2,000 worth of gas into his or her car every year, so the promise of Tesla’s vehicles gets attention from drivers feeling the pinch. These are all-electric vehicles that behave like sportscars. They’re comfortable, speedy, and stylish. Tesla cars shun gas completely and need nothing more than an electrical outlet.

The Tesla Model S can be configured to travel about 300 miles per charge. Roadside Tesla Superchargers will give a dead battery a half-charge (for 150 miles of range) in just 30 minutes.

But this car is far from the first reimagining of transportation. The road to Tesla is littered with abandoned ideas and dead batteries.

Perhaps most notable was the EV-1, an electric car that debuted in 1996 and got 70-100 miles per charge only to be discontinued by General Motors, citing lack of consumer interest. The documentary “Who Killed The Electric Car?” spends significant time looking into the murky circumstances that led the EV-1 to the chopping block, but more on that later.

Let’s take a look at innovation with electric-based transportation starting all the way back at the turn of the 20th century.

1896: The Hartford Electric Company sets up electric car charging infrastructure.

There used to be a time when electric- and gas-powered cars were directly competing with each other to be kings of the road. Before the 1920s, an electric car was by no means an unusual sight.

In 1896, the Hartford Electric Light Company proposed a recharging infrastructure. People could buy a car from General Electric and exchange their battery through Hartford Electric as a means of 'gassing up.'

The service ran from 1910 to 1924 and helped electric vehicle owners cover six million miles in that timeframe.

Source.

1897: New York City taxis get electrified.

The first commercial use of an electric vehicle was seen in 1897 when brand new electric taxis took to the streets of New York City to shuttle passengers around town.

Source

1911: The New York Times calls the electric car 'ideal.'

At the time, The New York Times called the electric car 'ideal' because it ran cleaner, quieter, and more economically that its gas-powered counterparts. A stark contrast to some of the things the NYT has said about Tesla's cars lately.

Source

Mid-Century: Electric vehicle technology pretty much languished at this point and went largely undeveloped until after World War II.

1959: The Henney Kilowatt turns heads but not enough for people to buy it.

The Eureeka Company manufactured 100 Kilowatts between 1959-1960, but was only able to sell 47 of them.

Despite the lag in sales, the Kilowatt was a promising electric automobile for its time. It traveled 40 miles on a charge and hit a top speed of 40 miles per hour. The improved 1960 model pushed this to 60 miles per charge and a zippy 60 mile-per-hour top speed.

Source

1970s onward: Assorted energy crises get people thinking about the electric car again.

Enrico Fermi Nuclear Generating Station, Unit 2

In the early 1990s, the California Air Resources Board lobbied in favour of more efficient cars that put our fewer emissions. During this time we saw a slew of manufacturers throw their hats into the electric-powered ring only to see them ultimately discontinued.

1996: The most controversial electric car ever, the EV-1, is introduced.

How many cars can you name that were discontinued and ended up getting a movie made about them? That's exactly what happened with General Motors EV-1. ('EV' stood for 'electric vehicle.')

The documentary Who Killed The Electric Car? uses the EV-1's production cycle and ultimate discontinuation as a backdrop for investigating why we aren't seeing an emphasis on alternative-powered vehicles. The movie hints strongly that GM killed the EV-1 for political reasons, despite consumer demand, not because of a lack of it.

Source

2011: The Mitsubishi i MiEV is the first electric car to sell more than 10,000 units.

They made it official -- the record is registered by Guinness World Records.

Source

Only a few months later, the Nissan Leaf overtook the i MiEV as the best-selling all-electric car ever.

Now we're seeing a much more aggressive attempt to normalize the electric car.

Tesla Motors' Model S evokes a classy getaway car that laughs in the face of your so-called 'gasoline.' With the top model tricked out, you can cover 300 miles on a single charge of its batteries. But those aren't little bunny rabbit batteries under the hood, dear -- this thing crushes it from zero to 60 in 4.2 seconds before hitting a top speed of 130 miles per hour.

Source

You use Wikipedia, but what do you really know about it?

NOW WATCH: Tech Insider videos

Want to read a more in-depth view on the trends influencing Australian business and the global economy? BI / Research is designed to help executives and industry leaders understand the major challenges and opportunities for industry, technology, strategy and the economy in the future. Sign up for free at research.businessinsider.com.au.