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1881: The First Electric Vehicle

Updated: Apr 25, 2023

Most of us think of EVs as a modern concept, but the reality is a Frenchman created the first electric powered vehicle in 1881. And it was rechargeable.

Gustave Trouvé's electric tricycle

Perhaps even more bizarrely, electric vehicles were all the rage in Victorian times but were largely killed off by the internal combustion engine. Now matters have swung full circle and electric vehicles are gradually to recapturing their crown.

The first electric vehicle, in 1881, was a tricycle invented by Gustave Trouvé - the year Billy the Kid was shot and the first Boer War ended.

In 1880 Trouvé improved the efficiency of a small electric motor developed by Siemens and using the recently developed rechargeable battery, fitted it to an English James Starley tricycle, so inventing the world’s first electric vehicle. Although this was successfully tested on 19 April 1881 along the Rue Valois in central Paris, he was unable to patent it.


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