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The First Electric Car

The First Electric Car

The origins of the electric vehicle stretch back to the early 19th century when inventors first began experimenting with battery-powered transports. In 1832, Scottish inventor Robert Anderson developed the first crude electric carriage powered by primitive non-rechargeable batteries. Anderson’s carriage was little more than a crude wooden cart, but it marked an important milestone as one of the earliest battery-powered vehicles ever created.

In the decades that followed, other inventors continued tinkering with early electric vehicle prototypes and designs. Between 1830 to 1900, various innovators in Europe and America built their own versions of battery-powered vehicles, experimenting with different motor and battery configurations. However, these early electric vehicles were held back by the limitations of the technology at the time.

During the late 1800s, steam-powered vehicles became the dominant form of transport. The rise of steam locomotives and steam-powered carriages overshadowed early electric vehicle development. With robust steam engines powering trains, boats, and road vehicles, electric motors could not yet compete in terms of range or reliability. This focus on steam power hampered progress on electric vehicles in the latter half of the 19th century.

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Edison and Others Push Boundaries of EV Design

As electric vehicles continued to evolve in the late 1800s, Thomas Edison emerged as a leading innovator pushing the boundaries of electric car design. Edison, already renowned for his work on the lightbulb, phonograph and other inventions, turned his sights to batteries and electric vehicles in the 1890s.

At his laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey, Edison and his team worked on building improved lead-acid batteries specifically for powering electric cars. Between 1890-1895, Edison developed a couple of early battery prototypes for electric vehicles. While crude, these represented important steps in developing lighter, more powerful batteries that could deliver longer ranges.

In 1897, the first electric cabs powered by lead-acid batteries began operating on the streets of New York City and in London, England. These electrified Hansom cabs, while still having limited range, offered a cleaner and quieter alternative to horse-drawn transportation.

Other inventors during this time also began creating more refined and lightweight electric car designs. Between 1895-1905, electric vehicles emerged with improved speed, acceleration and steering compared to earlier primitive models. New innovations in electric motors, batteries and manufacturing allowed electric cars to become a practical means of transportation.

However, major infrastructure limitations remained. Most roads were unpaved, charging stations were rare, and the range and speed still lagged behind rapidly improving gas-powered vehicles. Overcoming these challenges would prove difficult for early electric automobiles.


Brief Heyday in the Early 1900s

Electric cars gained brief popularity between 1900 and the 1920s as battery technology slowly improved. Companies like Baker Electric and Detroit Electric produced practical electric cars during this time, with top speeds of 20 mph and ranges around 50-80 miles per charge. Though still limited compared to gas cars, these early electric models found a niche as city cars for the upper class.

Electric vehicles accounted for around a third of all cars on the road in New York City during the 1910s. Quiet, easy to operate electrics became especially popular with women drivers. However, during this heyday period, internal combustion technology was rapidly evolving as well.

Key innovations like the electric starter motor, originally developed by Charles Kettering in 1912, made gas powered cars much easier to operate. No longer did drivers need to laboriously hand crank gas engines to get them started. The relative low cost of gasoline and growing access to fueling stations further promoted the rise of internal combustion vehicles.

While electric cars shone briefly, by the 1920s affordable gas cars with starters had clear advantages in range, speed, and refueling infrastructure. As a result, gas powered vehicles soon dominated the market.


Why Early EVs Didn’t Take Off

While electric cars created excitement and buzz in the late 1800s and early 1900s, they ultimately failed to overtake their gasoline-powered competitors. There were a few key reasons why early EVs lost momentum and faded from the mainstream:


Limited range and speed compared to gas cars – The primitive lead-acid batteries used in early electric cars had a fraction of the range of a tank of gasoline. Most could only travel about 50-100 miles before needing to be recharged, making long distance travel difficult. They also lacked the accelerating power that internal combustion engines could provide.


Lack of charging infrastructure – Since electric cars had to be plugged in to recharge, the lack of electrical outlets and charging stations outside of city centers limited where they could be driven. This gave gas cars the advantage for broader travel.


Cheap gas and mass production made gas cars more economical – Improvements in extracting, refining, and distributing gasoline combined with the invention of the assembly line dramatically drove down the cost of gas cars. Average consumers found them cheaper to own and operate than the limited electric cars available.


The Resurgence of Modern EVs

After fading from prominence in the early 20th century, interest in electric vehicles saw a major resurgence starting in the 1990s and accelerating through the 2000s until today. Several key factors drove this EV renaissance:

Concerns over reliance on foreign oil and the impact of climate change spurred new interest in developing electric vehicle technology. Gasoline vehicles emit significant greenhouse gases, while EVs have the potential to shift transportation onto renewable energy sources like solar and wind. Many governments began pushing policies to incentivize electric vehicle adoption as a way to reduce emissions.

Advances in lithium-ion battery technology significantly increased the range and performance of electric vehicles compared to early lead-acid or nickel-metal hydride batteries. Modern lithium-ion batteries can deliver ranges of 300 miles or more on a single charge, comparable to gasoline vehicles.

Government incentives like tax credits and access to HOV lanes made electric vehicles more affordable and appealing to own. Countries like Norway offered substantial incentives that boosted EV sales.

Tesla Motors emerged as a major player by making high-performance, long-range electric vehicles with appealing designs. Tesla’s Roadster and Model S helped change the image of EVs as boring economy cars to luxury status symbols with acceleration and tech features rivaling high-end sports cars.


Major Automakers Invest in EVs

We are now seeing nearly every major automaker make significant investments into electric vehicle development and production. Companies like General Motors, Volkswagen, Toyota, Hyundai, Ford, Honda, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, and more all have announced plans to roll out multiple new EV models over the next 5-10 years.

This proliferation of EVs from traditional automakers marks a major turning point for the industry. Where once EVs were seen as a niche, Tesla dominated the landscape. Now EVs are becoming mainstream and consumers have an ever-widening array of electric options.

Driving this transition has been the rapid growth of charging infrastructure, making EVs more practical and alleviating range anxiety. There are now over 100,000 public charging stations in the United States alone, with more being added daily. Many automakers are also collaborating to build out fast-charging networks.

Industry analysts predict that within the next 10-20 years, EVs will overtake gas-powered vehicles in new car sales. According to BloombergNEF’s Electric Vehicle Outlook 2022, EVs are on pace to make up 58% of new passenger vehicle sales globally by 2040 as prices fall and offerings expand.


The Future is Electric

Over 180 years since its invention, the electric car’s time may have finally arrived thanks to big leaps in technology and shifts in consumer demand. The next era of innovation in sustainable transport is here.

Nearly every major automaker is investing heavily in electric vehicle lineups, with dozens of new EV models coming to market in the next few years. Public charging networks are rapidly expanding as well, making range anxiety less of an issue for drivers.

Various projections show electric vehicles overtaking gas-powered vehicle sales globally by 2030 or 2040. Many countries have set aggressive timelines to phase out internal combustion engine vehicles entirely over the next 10-20 years.

After over a century of false starts, the electric vehicle seems poised to dominate the future of personal transportation. While the exact speed and shape of the transition remains uncertain, the overall direction is clear – the future is electric.

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Questions About The First Electric Car

The first electric car in Canada was developed by Henry Seth Taylor in 1892. Taylor was an inventor and entrepreneur living in Gananoque, Ontario. He created an electrically powered buggy that had a range of 16 miles and a top speed of 14 mph.

Some other early electric cars developed in Canada include:


– The “Electrobat” built by Charles Avery in Toronto in 1895. It could reach speeds of 15 mph.


– The “Toronto Electric Runabout” built by William Still in 1901. It had a range of 25 miles before needing to be recharged.


– The “Morrison Runabout” built by William Morrison in Toronto in 1922. It used Edison batteries and could travel 60 miles between charges.


– The “Gray-Dort Electric” built in Chatham, Ontario in 1925. It used a 4-horsepower electric motor and could go 50 miles on a full charge.

There were a few key reasons interest in electric cars declined in the early 1900s in Canada and elsewhere:


– Gasoline cars became more popular – Gasoline cars were faster, could travel further between refills, and gasoline fuel was easy to access. Brands like Ford began mass producing affordable gasoline cars.


– Limited battery technology – The lead-acid batteries used in early electric cars were heavy, took a long time to charge, and provided less range. This made gas cars seem superior.


– Advent of electric starters – Gasoline cars got electric starters in 1912, eliminating the hand cranking required. This made them easier to operate.


– Discovery of oil in Alberta – The 1914 oil discovery shifted focus towards gas-powered transportation.


So by around 1920, electric cars had mostly disappeared from the Canadian market. It would take many decades until battery technology could catch up.

Significant interest in electric cars in Canada began reemerging in the 1990s due to:


– Concerns over climate change and air pollution


– Advances in battery technologies, especially lithium-ion batteries


– Rise of hybrid vehicles in the late 1990s, paving the way for plug-in electric models


– High fuel prices making electric cars more appealing


– Government incentives and programs to encourage adoption of electric vehicles


This set the stage for modern electric cars from companies like Tesla to return to the Canadian market in the 2000s and 2010s.

The Canadian government has introduced several key policies and programs aimed at accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles, including:


– Cash rebates and tax incentives – Providing up to $5,000 back for buying an electric car.


– Charging infrastructure investments – Funding installation of public EV charging stations.


– Stricter vehicle emission standards – Requiring automakers to sell more zero-emission vehicles.


– Business incentives – Tax breaks to encourage company fleets switching to electric.


– Research funding – Investing in Canadian electric vehicle R&D projects.


– Federal electric vehicle purchasing requirement – Requiring a portion of new vehicles bought to be electric.


The goal is to reach 100% zero emission vehicle sales by 2035. These policies are aimed at spurring consumer demand and corporate supply.

Electric vehicle sales have risen rapidly in Canada in recent years. Some key stats:


– In 2018 there were over 44,000 EVs sold, up 125% from 2017.


– In 2021 over 150,000 electric cars were sold in Canada – 4.6% of all vehicles.


– In the first half of 2022, over 93,000 EVs were sold, 7.2% of the market.


– British Columbia leads in adoption with over 13% of 2022 sales being electric.


Experts forecast EV sales will hit between 650,000 to 1 million in Canada by 2030 as more models arrive and prices fall. Incentives and charging access are helping drive consumer appetite.

The top selling electric vehicles in the Canadian market in 2022 were:


  1. Tesla Model Y
  2. Tesla Model 3
  3. Ford Mustang Mach-E
  4. Hyundai Kona Electric
  5. Kia Niro EV
  6. Volkswagen ID.4
  7. Nissan Leaf
  8. Chevrolet Bolt / Bolt EUV
  9. Volvo XC40 Recharge


Tesla leads the market by far, accounting for about 75% of EV sales. More affordable models like the Nissan Leaf, Chevy Bolt and Hyundai Kona have also found success. Luxury brands like Audi and Jaguar also offer electric options.

The cold Canadian winters can negatively impact EV battery range and performance. Key impacts include:


– Reduced driving range – Range can drop 20-30% in extreme cold and with cabin heating on.


– Faster battery degradation – The cold contributes to losing battery capacity over time.


– Longer charge times – Both Level 2 and DC fast charging gets considerably slower below freezing.


– Regen braking reduction – Regenerative braking power is limited in very cold weather.


– Lower power output – Acceleration and hill climbing ability is hampered when it’s freezing out.

However, most modern electric cars have thermal management systems to minimize these effects. Parking in garages helps too. Canadian-focused EVs are designed to handle the cold.

The major barriers impeding faster electric car adoption in Canada include:


– High upfront costs – Purchase prices remain expensive compared to similar gas cars.


– Lack of charging infrastructure – Access to charging for those without home charging is limited in many areas.


– Range anxiety – Concerns over running out of charge while driving remains prevalent.


– Low model availability – Most car brands still lack affordable, mass market EV options.


– Consumer awareness – Many Canadians still don’t understand the benefits and capabilities of modern electric cars.


– Battery supply constraints – Automakers can’t produce as many EVs as there is demand for currently.


– Grid upgrade requirements – Upgrading electrical infrastructure will require major investments.

Overcoming these barriers will be key for Canada to reach its electric vehicle sales goals over the next 10-15 years.

Electric vehicles have higher upfront costs but lower fueling and maintenance costs compared to gas cars. A few key cost differences:


– Purchase Price – EVs cost $5,000-$15,000+ more upfront currently, though prices are falling.


– Fuel Costs – Electricity to charge an EV costs ~75% less than gasoline per kilometer.


– Maintenance – Fewer mechanical parts means lower/no oil changes, tune-ups, brake jobs required.


– Insurance – EVs can cost 5-10% less for auto insurance presently.


– Resale Value – Used EVs generally retain value better than gas cars.

Over a vehicle lifetime, an electric car may save $10,000 to $15,000 in fuel and maintenance costs compared to a gasoline vehicle. As purchase prices reach parity, total ownership costs will favor EVs more and more.

Charge times for electric vehicles in Canada vary greatly depending on the charging equipment used. Some typical charge duration examples:


– Level 1 (120 volt outlet): Adds ~8 km per hour charging. Fully recharges a 60 kWh battery in 48+ hours.


– Level 2 (240 volt, 7-11 kW): Adds ~25 km per hour charging. Fully recharges most EVs overnight in 7-12 hours.


– DC Fast Charge (50+ kW): Adds up to 200+ km in 15-30 minutes of charging. Gets an EV to 80% quickly.

So regular overnight charging at home is the most convenient for daily use. But DC fast charging stations along highways enable longer trips. Actual charge times depend on the EV model and battery size – newer EVs charge faster.

As of July 2022, there are over 17,000 public electric vehicle charging stations installed across Canada, including over 6,400 DC Fast Charging stations. Here is the breakdown by province:


– Ontario – 5,800 public charging stations (~2,000 DCFC)

– Quebec – 4,400 stations (~1,500 DCFC)

– British Columbia – 3,600 stations (~1,100 DCFC)

– Alberta – 1,700 stations (~600 DCFC)

– Rest of Canada – 1,500 stations (~200 DCFC)


The networks are continuing to expand rapidly. Natural Resources Canada has committed funding to have 50,000 EV chargers in place nationwide by 2030. Ensuring charging infrastructure grows quickly is crucial to support rising EV adoption in Canada.

For most Canadians, a modern electric vehicle can fully replace their main gas-powered vehicle for daily commuting and trips today, provided:


– They have home or workplace charging available

– They occasionally take road trips within the EV’s ~300+ km range

– They live within a metro area that has public fast charging options

– They have a second gas vehicle for longer trips if needed


The range and charging infrastructure is sufficient for handling probably 90%+ of most people’s driving needs now. But for those who frequently embark on long, rural road trips, a hybrid or gas vehicle may still work better in Canada presently.

Some of the major environmental benefits provided by electric vehicles in Canada include:


– Greatly reduced urban air pollution – EVs produce no tailpipe emissions. This improves air quality.


– Lower greenhouse gas emissions – Even with electrical generation emissions, EVs produce fewer emissions over their lifecycle.


– Less oil extraction required – Widespread EV adoption reduces dependence on oil drilling and importing.


– More renewable energy integration – EVs consuming electricity help drive growth in wind, solar, hydro power.


– Potential grid storage capabilities – Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology allows EVs to stabilize the electrical grid.


As Canada’s electrical grid shifts greener and greener this decade, the environmental advantages of driving electric will continue growing substantially.

Some of the most prominent Canadian companies helping drive electric vehicle advancement include:


– Lion Electric – Develops electric trucks, buses, and charging infrastructure.


– ElectraMeccanica – Vancouver-based designer of affordable single-seat EVs.


– Daymak – Ontario e-mobility company making light EVs plus EV batteries.


– Dundee – Battery recycling and lithium extraction technologies company.


– AddÉnergie – Quebec’s leading manufacturer of electric vehicle charging stations.


– Novonix – Produces high-performance lithium-ion battery materials.


– Ballard Power Systems – Pioneer in hydrogen fuel cell technologies with focus on vehicles.


The Canadian tech sector is making major contributions towards electric drivetrains, batteries, charging and hydrogen fuel cells. Government grants further help incubate innovations.

The electric vehicle future looks very bright in Canada. Experts predict EV sales rising to between 30% to 60% of all new car sales by 2030. By 2040, forecasts suggest 80% to 100% of new vehicles sold will be electric.

Falling battery costs, more model availability, stricter emissions rules and growing charging infrastructure will drive this EV growth. Higher gas prices also make EVs more attractive long-term. Many Canadian cities and provinces aim to mandate zero emission vehicles over the next 10-20 years.


The outlook is very strong for electric vehicles to dominate personal transportation in Canada by 2040-2050. Investments today in charging networks, battery tech and vehicles will enable this clean transport future.

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