Electric Cars Have Been Around Way Longer Than You Think

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Electric cars are gaining popularity year over year. There has been a rise in new makes and models and more auto manufacturers are introducing electric versions of gasoline-powered cars. But it begs the question, how old are electric cars? The answer will surprise you.
Close up shot of a charging plug on an electric car.
Electric cars are more popular than ever.

Sales of electric cars are soaring

Sales of EVs have reached record highs, especially in 2020 despite the pandemic. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, overall electric vehicle sales were 761,100 for 2020. Those figures include sales of hybrid, plug-in hybrid electric, and fully electric.
When compared to electric vehicle sales of just five years before that in 2015, EV sales were only 498,423, based on Bureau of Transportation Statistics data. That jump in sales translates to over a 50% increase in the last five full years of sales data.

Tesla is no longer the only maker of EVs

Although Tesla has accounted for a large share of the EV industry overall, its market share is decreasing, according to Electrek. That's not to confuse market share with sales, though. As far as sales go, Tesla led a 95% increase in electric car sales in 2020, Electrek continues.
The reason Tesla's market shares are decreasing is because other carmakers are joining the EV market or increasing their production.
According to the GM website, for instance, it plans to have 30 new electric vehicles across the globe by the year 2025. Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes Benz, similarly is working towards having at least 50% of all its sales being from EVs by 2025 as well, Forbes reports.

How long have electric cars actually been around?

The recent Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, a prestigious classic car show rich in history, showcased an impressive lineup of classic electric cars.
These weren't 1957 Chevy classics, though. They were electric cars as old as the automobile itself. According to Kelley Blue Book, eight electric cars dating as far back as 1896 participated in the famed Pebble Beach show.
These electric cars were the true pioneers of alternative power sources for automobiles and too cool to ignore. Unfortunately at that time, electric-powered cars couldn't keep up with the ever-advancing gasoline technology, Kelley Blue Book comments.

These are some of the most fascinating classic electric cars

1896 Riker Electric Roadster- At a time when horse-drawn carriages were the norm, this buggy is reminiscent of a simple carriage. Its single-person seat looks like a fancy armchair from the past, and it was made by engineer Andrew Lawrence Riker, Kelley Blue Book notes.
For steering, the driver used a tiller, a stick similar to what steers a small boat. The Riker Electric Roadster used five batteries to power the car.
1901 Columbia Mark XXXI Victoria Phaeton- This electric car was a bit more accommodating with a covered seating area for two. What made it an attraction at Pebble Beach, Kelley Blue Book notes, was its outlandish antique charging station.
This was a thing out of a mad scientist's lab, with various levers and dials. The Mark XXXI traveled an ample 40-45 miles on a charge, with speeds up to 28mph.
1922 Milburn Light Electric 27L Carriage- Produced later on, the Milburn electric car was the epitome of comfort and luxury for the time. It featured rollup windows, seating for five, and a toasty coal-fired foot warmer, according to Kelley Blue Book.
On top of that, the 84-volt battery arrangement had an astounding 100-mile range on a charge. Interestingly, the driver operated the vehicle from the back seat using a tiller, while passengers sat with their backs to the windshield since the front and back seats faced each other.
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