Thomas Parker built the first practical production electric car in London in 1884, using his own specially designed high-capacity rechargeable batteries.[11][12][13] The Flocken Elektrowagen of 1888 was designed by German inventor Andreas Flocken.[14] Electric cars were among the preferred methods for automobile propulsion in the late 19th century and early 20th century, providing a level of comfort and ease of operation that could not be achieved by the gasoline cars of the time.[15] The electric vehicle stock peaked at approximately 30,000 vehicles at the turn of the 20th century.[16]

In 1897, electric cars found their first commercial use in the USA. Based on the design of the Electrobat II, a fleet of twelve hansom cabs and one brougham were used in New York City as part of a project funded in part by the Electric Storage Battery Company of Philadelphia.[17] During the 20th century, the main manufacturers of electric vehicles in the US were Anthony Electric, Baker, Columbia, Anderson, Edison, Riker, Milburn, Bailey Electric and others. Unlike gasoline-powered vehicles, the electric ones were less fast and less noisy, and did not require gear changes. [18]

Advances in internal combustion engines in the first decade of the 20th century lessened the relative advantages of the electric car. The greater range of gasoline cars, and their much quicker refueling times, made them more popular and encouraged a rapid expansion of petroleum infrastructure, making gasoline easy to find, but what proved decisive was the introduction in 1912 of the electric starter motor which replaced other, often laborious, methods of starting the ICE, such as hand-cranking.

Six electric cars held the land speed record.[19] The last of them was the rocket-shaped La Jamais Contente, driven by Camille Jenatzy, which broke the 100 km/h (62 mph) speed barrier by reaching a top speed of 105.88 km/h (65.79 mph) on 29 April 1899.

In the early 1990s, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) began a push for more fuel-efficient, lower-emissions vehicles, with the ultimate goal being a move to zero-emissions vehicles such as electric vehicles.[1][20] In response, automakers developed electric models, including the Chrysler TEVanFord Ranger EV pickup truck, GM EV1, and S10 EV pickup, Honda EV Plus hatchback, Nissan Altra EV miniwagon, and Toyota RAV4 EV. Both US Electricar and Solectria produced 3-phase AC Geo-bodied electric cars with the support of GM, Hughes, and Delco. These early cars were eventually withdrawn from the U.S. market.[21]

California electric automaker Tesla Motors began development in 2004 on what would become the Tesla Roadster (2008), which was first delivered to customers in 2008. The Roadster was the first highway legal serial production all-electric car to use lithium-ion battery cells, and the first production all-electric car to travel more than 320 km (200 miles) per charge.[22] Models released to the market between 2010 and December 2016 include the Mitsubishi i-MiEVNissan LeafFord Focus ElectricTesla Model SBMW ActiveECodaRenault Fluence Z.E.Honda Fit EVToyota RAV4 EVRenault ZoeRoewe E50Mahindra e2oChevrolet Spark EVFiat 500eVolkswagen e-Up!BMW i3BMW Brilliance Zinoro 1EKia Soul EVVolkswagen e-GolfMercedes-Benz B-Class Electric DriveVenucia e30BAIC E150 EVDenza EVZotye Zhidou E20BYD e5Tesla Model XDetroit Electric SP.01BYD Qin EV300Hyundai Ioniq Electric and Chevrolet Bolt EV.

Cumulative global sales of the Nissan Leaf, currently the top selling electric car, passed 200,000 units in December 2015, five years after its introduction.[23][24] The same month, the Renault-Nissan Alliance, the top selling all-electric vehicle manufacturer, passed the milestone of 300,000 electric vehicles sold worldwide.[24] The Tesla Model 3 was unveiled on March 31, 2016 and more than 325,000 reservations were made during the first week since bookings opened, each customer paying a refundable US$1,000 deposit to reserve the car.[25] Cumulative global sales of all-electric cars and vans passed the 1 million unit milestone in September 2016.[4] Global Tesla Model S sales achieved the 150,000 unit milestone in November 2016.[26] Norway achieved the milestone of 100,000 all-electric vehicles registered in December 2016.[27]

Tesla global sales passed 250,000 units in September 2017.[28][29] The Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance achieved the milestone of 500,000 units electric vehicles sold in October 2017.[30] Tesla sold its 200,000th Model S in the fourth quarter of 2017.[7] Global Leaf sales passed 300,000 units in January 2018, keeping its record as the world’s top selling plug-in electric car ever.[6]