History of Electric Cars: The Beginning

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Nobody knows exactly who first put a battery in a buggy to propel it instead of a horse. We know Henri Owen Tudor in Luxembourg manufactured the first commercial lead-acid batteries from 1886 onward. So, we have a start date that provides a helpful handle. The history of electric cars in the U.S. began when chemist William Morrison powered a wagon with a battery. It achieved 14 miles per hour and his 6 passenger must have been dare we say electrified.

The Morrison Electric Automobile Running on Batteries

William Morrison was an inventive fellow. He patented an automatic regulator for electricity, and a way for making battery storage plates. In 1890, a carriage company built him a special surrey with space for 24 storage batteries he designed. This enabled him to experiment with America’s earliest electric vehicles.

Each cell weighed 32 pounds so we are confident they were lead-acid ones. The set of 24 produced 112 amps at 58 volts and took 10 hours to fully charge from flat.

The electric motor geared directly to the rear axle under the floor. We suspect the batteries were inside the enclosed seats. Morrison controlled speed by cutting several batteries in or out depending on circumstances.

The History of Electric Cars in the U.S. Going Forward

history of electric cars

Morrison 4 Seater: Unknown Author: Pub Domain

Morrison sold 12 of his vehicles during the dawn of electric cars. The commercial versions had a range of 100 miles, and a top speed of 6 to 12 miles an hour. Steering was by rack and pinion driven by a hand wheel. His automobiles must have seemed revolutionary gadgets in the minds of his bemused family and friends.

However, he faded from the pages of history in 1891, after he chose to focus on selling his batteries instead. His partner, William Sturgis entered a four-seater Morrison automobile in Chicago’s first automobile race. Unfortunately, the batteries failed in the unseasonably freezing weather, and gasoline took the winner’s flag.

Our amazing electricity pioneer died a wealthy man from devices he invented to run on his batteries. He never owned one of his electric vehicles, and he never purchased any other automobile. We are closing our book for now on the history of electric cars and an eccentric man. But we promise to be back soon with more history of electric cars.


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Credits for Information:

U.S. Department of Energy

American Automobiles


About Author


I tripped over a shrinking bank balance and fell into the writing gig unintentionally. This was after I escaped the corporate world and searched in vain for ways to become rich on the internet by doing nothing. Despite the fact that writing is no recipe for wealth, I rather enjoy it. I will not deny I am obsessed with it when I have the time. My base is Umtentweni in South Africa on the Kwazulu-Natal South Coast (30.7167° S, 30.4667° E). I work from home where I ponder on the future of the planet, and what lies beyond in the great hereafter. Sometimes I step out of my computer into the silent riverine forests, and empty golden beaches for which the area is renowned.

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