German Museum Recreates World's First Electric Vehicle

By · November 15, 2011

Recreated electric vehicle

German museum recreates world's oldest electric vehicle.

In 1881, William Ayrton and John Perry built what is consider to be the world's first-ever electric vehicle. The German Museum Autovision recently recreated the electric tricycle based on the English scientists' design.

According to Autovision, the EV re-creation is a accurate representation of the original, down to the finest details. In order for the museum to accurately reproduce the vehicle, it had to source the only remaining example of the original Starley tricycle known to exist.

Rather than equipping the vehicle with modern mechanicals, the museum decided to create an exact replica of the original. This meant reinventing the wheel (figuratively)—on in this case the electric motor and batteries that would have been used back in 1881.

The original electric tricycle used ten lead acid cells in series, providing a half-horsepower of motivation. In a precursor to EV modes, the speed of the Ayrton-Perry trike was changed by switching the lead acid batteries on and off one after another. The vehicle is regarded as the first vehicle of any kind to have electric lighting.

The electric tricycle's motor is located underneath the wooden panel that forms the seat and the batteries are contained in a wooden box located directly below the driver. The replica also matches the specs of the original: hitting a top speed of about nine miles per hour and boasting a range of approximately 25 miles. It took the museum one year to complete the project.

In the same breakthrough year, France’s Gustave Trouve demonstrated a working three-wheeled electric automobile at the International Exhibition of Electricity in Paris. Also in 1881, Charles Jeantaud, a Parisian engineer and carriage builder, reportedly built an EV with help from Camille Faure, inventor of the pasted plate battery.

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