8 Electric Cars That Existed Before Tesla (With Pictures)

Few people that EVs had come a long way before we had Tesla. We’d forgive you if you think that Tesla’s 2008 Roadster was the first EV. Most people tend to think that way.

As early as 1890, electricity was already competing with gasoline to power cars. Although only a few people had access to EVs in those years. In this article, we take you through the memory lane of the EVs.

But let’s kickstart this topic by answering this crucial topic:

Who were the buyers of the first electric cars?

In the early part of the century, engineers in Europe and the United States started exploring ways of inventing the electric-powered car. Then, they produced a few cars powered by electricity.

In the 1920s, EVs maintained a relatively tiny market share, particularly in the cities. Those were areas where affluent customers enjoyed the silent operation and ease of use of the first EVs.

Often, women showed significant interest in the first EVs because they didn’t require any hand-crank starting, which was a bit of muscle tearing for women.

That said, gas-powered cars started becoming popular before World War II. By then, most electric-car makers had either converted to producing combustion engine cars or folded.

1) Hart

The Hart became the first successful electric car.

Most people will be surprised to learn that this first electric car came from the United States. That first EV was developed in 1890 by William Morrison of Des Moines, a chemistry genius from Iowa.

He named the car Hart.

This vehicle accommodated six passengers, and it could accelerate to 14 mph.

2. Baker Electric

A few years later, Baker Electric was the first commercially available EV.

Baker Motor Vehicle Company produced it in Cleveland, Ohio.

This EV went on sale in 1899 and was made available until 1915. According to Car Driver, the founder of Baker Motor Vehicle Company attempted multiple land speed record attempts.

Fortunately, the engineer of Baker Motor Vehicle managed to set the record for an electric driving range, which was 201 miles on a single charge.

3. Detroit Electric

Then there was also Detroit Electric, a car originally introduced as a horse-drawn carriage.

The Anderson Carriage Company invented this EV.

It had an impressive driving range of 80 miles per charge. But it was also capable of a more extended range than that. Detroit Electric managed to travel for 211.3 miles on a single charge in one instance.

Unfortunately, the Anderson Carriage Company abandoned the idea after its competitors’ combustion engines gained more traction.

3. Henney Kilowatt

Between 1959 and 1960, Henney Motor Company launched a four-door EV called Kilowatt. The EV used body parts of the Renault Dauphine.

The first models of the Kilowatt ran on a 36-volt system of 18 two-volt batteries in series.

In 1960, they introduced an improved model that had a top speed of 60 miles per hour and a driving range of 60 miles. Unfortunately, Henney Motor Company had to stop producing the Kilowatt after selling only 47..

4. Toyota Prius

Then we had to wait until 1997 before getting an EV that would be a turning point in the electric industry. The Toyota Prius. The Prius was released as a hybrid electric car in Europe. Three years later, the Prius was released globally. This EV became an instant success with many celebrities.

Toyota used a nickel-metal hydride battery to ensure that the Prius had a long driving range.

That cemented Prius’ place as the most selling EV around that time.

The Prius cost around $19,995, making it one of the few affordable EVs.

It had a remarkable driving range of 560 miles. It could accelerate from 0 to 62mph in 13.4 seconds and had a maximum speed of 99mph.

5. GM EV1

Between 1996 and 1999, General Motor’s released the GM EV1.

With this EV, General Motors was testing the marketing. It was a 2-seater coupe, with enough space for the big batteries. Power came from lead-acid batteries weighting. The batteries were inside the transmission tunnel and behind the seats.

They made the GM EV1 available to drivers in California and Georgia. The car had a driving range of 70 to 100 miles. And it was available either in silver, red or green colors.

It had just 137bhp and could go from zero to 60 in about eight seconds. The motor made 137 horsepower from 7000-13000 rpm.

Most experts believe that General Motors could have led the electric revolution with the GM EV1.

Unfortunately, General Motors had to crush a handful of the 1,117 EV1s it produced.

6. Honda EV Plus

Then there was a Honda EV Plus. Honda released this EV for its select customers through a lease-only program between 1997 and 1999.

Honda started working on EV Plus in the late eighties. Its purpose was mainly to satisfy a mandate issued by California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) that stated that starting in 1998, two percent of a car manufacturer’s sales should be EVs.

On the technical level, the EV Plus was a great car.

This compact EV became the first to utilize the more modern nickel-metal hydride battery pack.

According to Honda, the 28.7 kWh battery of the EV Plus had “twice the energy and life span” of the lead-acid batteries. It had a 60 and 80 miles driving range, with an EPA rating of 81.

Honda released 330 units, then promised to discontinue releasing EV Plus.

7. Toyota RAV4 EV

Toyota was among the first automakers to release a compact crossover SUV powered by electricity in the 1990s.

The RAV4 EV was available around 1997 and 2003. Unfortunately, due to disagreements with Ovonic Battery, which owns a patent on NiMh batteries, Toyota was forced in 2003 to stop the production of the RAV4 EV.

The first Toyota RAV4 EV was a five-door SUV that borrowed its looks from the gas-powered RAV4. It had a length of 3980 mm, a width of 1694 mm, and a height of 1636 mm.

It came with an electric motor that generated 68 horsepower) and 190 Nm of torque. The RAV4 could accelerate from zero to 80 in 12.8 seconds.

The first generation of RAV4 EV cost $42,000. Then, Toyota discontinued producing the RAV4, only to manufacture it in later 2012 following a partnership with Tesla.

Finally… Tesla Roadster

In 2008, Tesla’s released the Model S sedan; it was the 2008 Roadster. It became the first EV that would introduce other generations of Teslas.

They sold only 2450 cars of the first Roadster worldwide.

The electric motor of the first Roadster made 248 horsepower and 211 pound-feet of zero-rpm torque.

Fast-forward to 2020, Tesla decided to introduce the Model 3, which is one of its great luxury EVs. It comes with a lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) battery. The Tesla Model 3 comes with a Rear With Drive.

The Model 3 comes standard with 235/45 R18 front tires and 235/45 R18 rear tires. It would help if you serviced it every 12 months or 20,000 km, whichever comes first.

It is a 4-door with five seats and uses a fully electric engine. The new model can accelerate from zero to 60 in 6.1 seconds, which is quite impressive for an EV. That said, it is highly recommended that you charge the battery to the total capacity.

The Tesla Model 3 offers an ambient interior. The seats are comfortable and easy to adjust.

There is enough boot space to drop in your luggage or groceries.

It boasts a 15-cubic-foot trunk space and a front trunk (or frunk). You can fold seats to accommodate bulky items, and a power trunk lid is standard.

The base trim starts at $57,490; if you pimp, it can cost $72,490 fully loaded. At the same time, the top of rage Performance trim costs $62,990. Interestingly, the Tesla 3 battery can last for 336 miles on a single charge.

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