From AMC to Tesla: A Timeline of Important Electric Cars in America
With the current massive movement toward electric vehicles from both established automakers and startup companies, it's easy to imagine that it was only recently that the EV came onto the scene. The truth is though, that battery-powered electric cars have been around since the earliest days of the automobile, with some being much more successful than others.
As we continue toward a future with an increasingly large share of EVs, let's look back at some of the most important electric cars of the last 100+ years.
Electric Vehicles of the 1900s
1907 - Detroit Electric
Starting in the late 19th century as the automobile era dawned there were a number of electric cars being developed alongside gasoline vehicles around the world. Here in America the most successful of these early EVs was the Detroit Electric, which launched in 1907.
It had a range of about 80 miles and had a top speed of 20 MPH. Jay Leno has one that he's in the midst of putting in a Tesla powertrain.
EVs of the 1960s
1967: AMC Amitron
With increasing concern about air quality in the 1960s and later the gas crisis of the 1970s there was an increased interest in electric vehicles in the US.
The result was small city cars like AMC Amitron which sported a 150 mile range but never made it past the prototype stage due to limits of period technology and production capability.
1996 - GM EV1
In 1996 General Motors debuted the first mass-produced, dedicated electric vehicle of the modern era with the EV1.
A number of reasons lead to GM pulling the plug on the EV1 program in 2002, including high costs and a change in emissions standards to favor gasoline electric hybrids. The EV1 would later become the subject of the documentary film Who Killed the Electric Car?.
2010 - Nissan LEAF
Considered the first mainstream electric car of the current era, the Nissan LEAF debuted in 2010 and is now in its second generation.
It’s one of the best-selling electric vehicles in the world, and while it may have been outclassed by many of its competitors in the following years, the LEAF represented a massive leap in the growth of EVs.
2012 - Tesla Model S
More than just an electric car, the Tesla Model S reached new heights in luxury, performance and range, which was further boosted by Tesla's impressive network of "Supercharger" stations around the world.
With this infrastructure, long distance travel in an all-electric car became feasible for many and this benefit would carry over to future Tesla models.
2013 - BMW i3
In 2013 BMW debuted its first dedicated electric vehicle, the i3. Underneath its compact "city car" body sits a carbon fiber tub, and a rear-mounted motor powering the rear wheels.
A Bimmer unlike any that came before it, the i3 has become one of the most recognizable EVs on the road today.
2016 - Chevrolet Bolt
More than a decade after scrapping the infamous EV1 program, General Motors took another big stab at the electric car game with the Chevrolet Bolt in 2016.
With range anxiety being one of one of the biggest limiting factors of electric vehicle adoption, the Bolt came to market with an impressive 238 mile range and an affordable sticker price. It's also been the first in a long line of EVs that GM plans to build in the coming years.
2017 - Tesla Model 3
Following up on the success of the Model S, Tesla began selling the smaller, more affordable Model 3 in 2017.
Available in multiple variants and with a significantly lower price tag than the Model S, the Model 3 has quickly become the company’s best seller and is the current standard in affordable electric cars worldwide.
2021 - Ford Mustang Mach-E
The Mustang Mach-E represents the Ford’s first attempt at a dedicated, upmarket performance EV.
Using one the most legendary nameplates in automotive history is a bold move, and Ford is hoping its all electric crossover will do justice to the Mustang brand. It will be available in several different forms, including a high performance "GT" version. Sacreligous name or not, it's one of the most important new Ford products in a long time
2021 - Rivian R1T
The next great frontier in the EV market in North America is the electric pickup truck, and one of the companies leading the charge is a startup called Rivian, who will soon be building an electric pickup truck called the R1T, with an SUV version based on the same platform.
Given the dominance of trucks in America, a successful electric pickup has the potential to be a gamechanger. As of now, R1T Production is scheduled to begin in the second half of 2020.
While there are countless other EVs that have been available over the course of history, this highlights a few of the milestones. More importantly, it's an evolution that's only going to speed up in the coming years as more and more automakers and drivers make the pivot to electric. The future is here.
Or maybe you want a modern electric SUV with a classic skin around it? Check out this 600 HP all-electric classic Bronco currently available for order.