This interactive timeline gives a brief overview of some of the developments within the electric vehicle industry.

Rights: University of Waikato. All Rights reserved. Published 15 February 2017 Referencing Hub media

Electric vehicles were invented in the 1800s, but mass-produced petrol-powered cars like Henry Ford’s Model T, introduced in 1908, quickly became more widely available and affordable. The electric vehicles had all but disappeared by 1935 – until the realisation that fossil fuel is a finite resource. This, combined with growing concerns about the damaging effects of emissions from petrol-powered motors, has led to a resurgence in interest in electric vehicles.


1821 – First electromagnet

Michael Faraday creates the first electromagnet.

Acknowledgement: Public domain

1834 – First rotating electric motor

German physicist Moritz von Jacobi creates the first rotating electric motor.

Acknowledgement: Public domain

1837 – First American patent placed on an electric motor

Thomas Davenport, a blacksmith from Vermont, is awarded the first American patent on an electric motor.

Acknowledgement: Public domain

1859 – First rechargeable battery invented

The first rechargeable battery, a lead-acid cell, is invented by Gaston Planté. This technology is still used today. Further developments become possible in the electric car industry.

Acknowledgement: Public domain

1880 – Working electric vehicles being designed and built

Several people are designing and building electric cars using electric rotating motors. English electrical engineer Thomas Parker, a pioneer of manufacturing equipment that powers electric tramways, uses this technology to build one of the first electric cars.

Acknowledgement: Public domain

1894 – Electrobat ll – first commercially available electric vehicle

The Electrobat ll is the first commercially available electric vehicle, designed and built by mechanical engineer Henry Morris and chemist Pedro Salom.

Acknowledgement: Public domain

1898 – Egger-Lohner electric car developed

Ferdinand Porsche develops the Egger-Lohner electric car. It is nicknamed the P1.

Acknowledgement: Arnaud 25, licensed under Creative Commons 4.0

1908 – Petrol-powered Model T developed

Henry Ford develops the Model T. Mass production of this cheaper, petrol-powered vehicle results in the demise of the electric vehicle.

Acknowledgement: Pierre Poschadel, licensed under Creative Commons 3.0

1971 – NASA helps raise the profile of the electric vehicle

NASA helps raise the profile of the electric vehicle when its electric Lunar Rover becomes the first manned vehicle to drive on the Moon in 1971.

Acknowledgement: Public domain

1996 – General Motors develop first mass-produced all-electric car

GM used a lease-only agreement to release the EV1 in the USA. The customer feedback about the EV1 was positive and production continued until 1999, but in 2002, GM believing that electric cars were unprofitable, recalled all EV1 vehicles. The majority of them were crushed, despite the protest of their customers.

Acknowledgement: Rick Rowen, RightBrainPhotography, licenced under Creative Commons 2.0

1997 – First mass-produced modern hybrid electric vehicle produced

The Toyota Prius is the world’s first mass-produced modern hybrid electric vehicle. Audi designs the Duo lll.

Acknowledgement: Mytho88, licensed under Creative Commons 3.0

1998 – Nissan Altra electric vehicle released

Nissan releases the Altra EV – only 200 are produced.

Acknowledgement: Tennen Gas, licensed under Creative Commons 3.0

2008 – Tesla Roadster

Tesla Motors produce the Tesla Roadster, an all-electric vehicle.

Acknowledgement: Plug In America, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

2009 – Ford produces hybrid vehicle

The Ford Fusion hybrid vehicle is released in the US.

Acknowledgement: Public domain

2010 – Nissan, Mercedes-Benz and Tesla release all-electric vehicles

Nissan releases the Nissan Leaf all-electric car with a synchronous electric motor used on the front axle. Mercedes-Benz collaborates with Tesla Motor Company to produce the A-Class E-Cell vehicle.

Acknowledgement: Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz, licensed under Creative Commons 3.0

2011 – Chevrolet produces the Chevy Volt

Chevrolet produces the Chevy Volt hybrid for the US market.

Acknowledgement: Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz, licensed under Creative Commons 3.0

2012 – Tesla releases new models

With the end of production of the Tesla Roadstar, the Tesla Model S is released.

Acknowledgement: Tim Draper/Steve Jurvetson, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

2013 – Panamera S E-Hybrid released

Porsche released the Panamera S E-Hybrid released.

Acknowledgement: Motor Blog, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

2014 – Multiple releases of electric and hybrid cars worldwide

Around the world, there are multiple releases of electric and hybrid cars from BMW, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and Kia.

Acknowledgement: Oregon Department of Transportation, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

2015 – Increasing technology and demand see more electric vehicles produced

The Tesla Model X is released, and more all-electric and hybrid models are released by Hyundai, Audi, Chevrolet, Volvo and Mercedes.

Acknowledgement: Steve Jurvetson, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

2016 – Technology is increasing at an exponential rate in this field

An increase in consumer demand for more clean, green motoring and the competition for a share in an increasing electric vehicle (EV) market sees the planned release of many more EV and hybrid vehicles by most of the world’s car production companies.

Acknowledgement: Yarruta, licensed through 123RF Ltd