As you probably already know, the auto industry has a very dense and rich past. If we think back to what many consider to be the first mass-produced automobile, the Ford Model T, in 1908 and compare it with the race of innovation and technological advancement, what we get is a history that matches its subject. Like cars, their history is fast, and always getting faster. We’ve taken a crack at some auto-history on our blog in the past, although just like everyone else, we’re always ready to learn more, so today we want to dive into some more of the secret history of our vehicles!
We think of electric cars as a futuristic response to their environmentally unfriendly predecessors. It seems that only now, with the technological advances companies like Tesla, Volkswagen and Chevrolet have been making in recent years that electric cars are within the grasp of almost everyone – but what if we told you this is just history repeating itself? What if we told you that even before the Ford Motor Company, over one hundred years ago, electric cars ruled the roads?
Well, strap in because this month we’re looking at some ancient-automobile history, and exploring the wild world of early electric vehicles!
A Spark of Inspiration
Before we can dive into the early years of motoring, where electric cars ruled – we have to begin at their genesis. The idea of a ‘motorised’ or ‘horseless carriage’ was of immense interest to many inventors of the 19th century – although it was a case of what tools these thinkers had at their disposal.
In 1860, the new internal combustion engine was had only unveiled – a huge meatal beast used to power factories, definitely not cars. It was only one year earlier, that Gaston Planté changed the world with his own source of power – the lead-acid battery!
While these two sources of power were developed further, it became apparent that a small (by 19th century standards) battery was far better suited to fit in a carriage than a behemoth internal combustion engine. By 1881, another French inventor by the name of Camile Alphonse Faure made some significant improvements to the capacity and ability to mass-produce lead-acid batteries.
Faure’s improvements were so significant in fact, that in April of 1881, a third French innovator by the name of Gustave Trouvé created what many believe to be the first predecessor to what we know today as an electric car. Trouvé’s “Electric Tricycle” basically consisted of a tricycle developed by the English inventor James Stanley, retrofitted with his improved lead-acid battery. The first test of Trouvé’s invention took place on the 19th of April that year, through the streets of Paris, reaching around an estimated ten miles per hour. Although he was unable to patent the design, he set the gears in motion for a new wave of electrical transportation fascination.
First of its Kind
While the groundwork laid out by the likes of Faure, Trouvé and others across the channel was instrumental, it would not be until 1888 when technically the first electric car would be made. With a name far less sleek than the likes of modern vehicles S Class, the Flocken Elektrowagen is considered to be the definitive ‘first electric car’.
Not much is known about the developmental stages of Floken’s work – however, by the time his first Elektrowagen was unveiled, it had all the hallmarks of what would be considered a genuine electric motor car! When tested, the vehicle could reach a whopping one horsepower and apparently reached a top speed of nine miles per hour!
Due to the electric motor being far more compact and versatile than the clucky ancestors of the modern internal combustion engine, they were well known for setting early land speed records!
La Jamais Contente was perhaps the most well known of all of these vehicles, and definitely was the most futuristic-looking vehicle for its time. Its aerodynamic body was indicative of that of a torpedo and was crafted out of an alloy known as parthenium, a lightweight alloy formed of aluminium, tungsten and magnesium (so thank goodness it did not set alight!).
On the 1st of May 1899 near Paris, the Belgian driver Camille Janatzy also known as Le Diable Rouge (The Red Devil) hopped into La Jamais Contente, which was fitted with two 25 kW electric motors, both driving independently chained rear wheels, to reach a horsepower of 68!
That day, the rocket-shaped vehicle was then the fastest in the world, topping out at 62mph, a staggering speed for a vehicle of its kind, however, it would not be long before the looming progress of the combustion engine would creep upon them!
Shocked, or not?
Even though the story of the electric car is only just beginning, let us know if you learned anything new about these old electric motors! We know that electric cars aren’t for everyone, and that’s okay, although whether you’re a petrolhead or a driver from the future – one thing stays the same… quality body working and vehicle servicing!
At East Anglia Smart Repair, we focus on all the parts of your vehicle that make it stand out, that’s why we’ve invested our expertise in the highest-calibre services you won’t find anywhere else, including our Diamond Cut Specialists, Alloy Wheel Restorations, Paintless Dent Repairs along with everything your car or van’s body needs to stay looking sharp!