Throughout history, manufacturers and innovators have worked together to develop road transport from the horse and carts of the 1800s to the technologically advanced vehicles of today. Although you may think that electric cars are a relatively new invention, they’ve been just as much a part of vehicle history as petrol and diesel-powered automobiles.

As well as petrol and diesel cars, many major manufacturers now offer electricity-powered alternatives to match the rising demand – and these vehicles are available to lease as well as to buy.

When it comes to leasing your next vehicle, you may wish to consider an electric option, especially with so many charging points now available in retail parks and residential areas. However, before committing to anything, you may be interested to learn more about the history of electric vehicles.

 When were electric cars made?

You may be surprised to discover that the concept of electric cars was developed as early as the 1800s. Back then, horse and carts were the most common form of transportation, but the greatest minds in the USA, the Netherlands and Hungary were said to be toying with the idea of using electricity to power carts as a long-term replacement to horses.

Although innovators of the time continued to develop potential theories for how an electric car could operate, the invention of the automobile – which is often credited to Karl Benz – moved this concept to the backseat in the late 1880s.

a car manufacturer designing a new electric car

Who invented the electric car?

Just like with the automobile, the person who invented the electric car is contested by many historians. Scottish inventor Robert Anderson is considered by many as the inventor of the first crude electric vehicle. It was created around 1832 using primary power cells that were non-rechargeable.

Despite the first prototype being invented by Robert Anderson, other historians credit Scottish chemist William Morrison as being the true inventor of the electric car. While Anderson made it possible for a wagon to move using electricity, Morrison’s invention was a dedicated vehicle powered by electricity. As this type of vehicle was relatively easy to drive, quiet and didn’t produce the smells that petrol-powered modes of transport did, it became popular in the early 1900s.

When was the first modern electric car made?

Electric cars are an increasingly common feature on UK roads, and they differ massively from the first prototype in the early 1800s. Since that point, the concept of electric cars has been developed and car manufacturers have tried to capitalise on the benefits and potential of this type of technology. After a drop in popularity in the 1980s, the interest returned between 1990 and 1992 when a change to regulations led major car manufacturers to modify vehicles into electric editions.

The 1990s saw General Motors releasing the EV1 and Toyota unveiling the Prius before Tesla vowed to produce enhanced luxury sports cars run by electricity in 2006. Three years later and electric cars became a viable choice for many drivers, with electric car charging stations being installed in various locations across the UK. As things stand, electric cars are only likely to become more commonplace on our roads, and research organisation BloombergNEF predicts that by the year 2040, over half the vehicles in circulation will be electric.