Charge Through History: The Forgotten Early Electric Vehicles

by AutoExpert   |  19 March, 2024

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Forget thinking electric cars are some brand-new invention. Turns out, folks were plugging in way back in the day! Batteries haven't always been awesome, so a lot of these early EVs were kinda...well, let's just say "interesting". But hey, it's cool to see where this whole EV thing started!

Here's a few of the weird and wonderful EVs you probably never heard of:

1. Toyota RAV4 EV (yup, they made one!)

Before Toyota went all-in on hybrids, they actually tried their hand at electric SUVs. We're talking TWO generations of electric RAV4 way back when. The first was kinda slow and only good for about 100 miles, but hey, it was the '90s. Then they borrowed Tesla's tech for round two – way faster, same range. Imagine an old-school RAV4 going all silent electric!

Early Electric Vehicles

2. Chrysler TEVan (a minivan, but electric)

Remember those classic boxy minivans? Chrysler made an ELECTRIC one in the '90s, and not for families, but for freakin' power companies! Picture a minivan puttering around a power plant – hilarious. Only about 50 ever made, and they cost a fortune, so odds are you'll never see one on the road.

Early Electric Vehicles

3. Bradley GT Electric (the weirdest one)

You know those cheesy kit cars? People glued fiberglass bodies onto old VW Beetles. Well, they made an ELECTRIC one in the '80s. It was slow as heck, but hey, maybe gullwing doors make up for it?

Early Electric Vehicles

4. Unique Mobility Electrek (a futuristic...thing?)

The oil crisis of the 70s had everyone trying to reinvent the car, and the Electrek was one funky result. Imagine a squashed AMC Pacer made of fiberglass...that's the style we're talking about. But hey, it could hit 100 miles on a charge if you kept it nice and slow. Kinda the granddaddy of those weird one-wheel electric things you see nowadays.

Early Electric Vehicles

5. Volkswagen T2 Electric Transporter (hippies get practical)

Even VW got in on the '70s electric craze, turning their iconic hippie van into a battery-powered beast. Imagine, no more sputtering engine – just a silent motor humming along. Of course, the batteries weighed a ton and made it crazy heavy, but hey, it was an experiment!

Early Electric Vehicles

6. CitiCar / Comuta-Car (the golf cart that went rogue)

If you ever wanted a golf cart with doors, this was your jam. The CitiCar and its fancy cousin, the Comuta-Car, were basically boxes on tiny wheels. Think neighborhood errands, not highway cruising. Super basic tech, but hey, who needs to go fast when you're that compact?

Early Electric Vehicles

7. Ford Ranger EV (the practical pioneer)

Ford built an electric Ranger pickup WAY back in 1998 – who knew! Decent power, could actually haul stuff, and managed a good 100ish miles if you weren't lead-footed. Puts the whole "trucks can't be electric" argument to bed, doesn't it?

Early Electric Vehicles

8. Chevrolet S-10 Electric (GM's quiet contender)

Chevy beat Ford by a year with their own electric S-10 pickup. A bit more power, but the early ones had terrible range – like, 45 miles max. Still, they even raced the thing up Pikes Peak, so it wasn't all about being sensible.

Early Electric Vehicles

9. Mercedes-Benz 190 E Electro (luxury gets experimental)

Even Mercedes dipped their toe into EVs in the early '90s! They took their regular sedan, stuffed it with batteries, and sent it out to play guinea pig for a few years. Weirdly, some had manual transmissions, others were automatics...they were figuring things out as they went along.

Early Electric Vehicles

10. Honda EV Plus (the one that got away)

Remember that "Who Killed the Electric Car" documentary? The Honda EV Plus was like the GM EV-1's forgotten cousin. Small, zippy, and managed about 100 miles – perfect for city life. Unfortunately, Honda crushed 'em all after the experiment ended, so they're super-rare collector's items now.

Early Electric Vehicles

The takeaway?

Electric cars have a way longer history than most folks think. Yeah, a lot of these old ones were duds, but it's awesome to see that the idea's been kicking around for decades. Makes ya wonder what crazy EVs we'll be talking about 20 years from now, huh?

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