6 Electric Cars That Never Quite Caught On

Many people are unaware that electric vehicles have actually been around for well over 100 years in the United States. In fact, as early as 1832, inventors had developed an electric carriage that used a crude form of non-rechargeable cells in an electric-powered carriage. By 1900, 28 percent of the 4,192 cars on American roads were electric. However, that all changed with the introduction of the Ford (NYSE:F) Model T.

Soon, gasoline became the primary go-to for transportation, aided by the invention of the electric starter for gasoline cars, which did away with the unwieldy crank starter — soon, electric vehicles fell by the wayside, as did research associated with their improvement.

Since then, electric cars have had moments of growth, but have never really caught on. While a few attempts came close, macro conditions generally had the better hand and stamped them out before they were really able to come to fruition.

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Now, it seems like electric vehicles are making a resurgence, and are coming back better than ever. The tanking of Fisker Automotive — the company that recently plummeted in quite spectacular  fashion — and the continued good news coming from Camp Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) really drive home the point that in the end, it boils down to superior management and a knowledge of consumer taste.

However, here are a handful of EVs that ended up going more the way of Fisker, and couldn’t quite catch on like the Tesla.

1.  The Nissan Altra


Photo: 天然ガス

With the Leaf compact gaining a loyal and growing following, its easy to forget that this is not Nissan’s first attempt at an electric vehicle. In 1998, Nissan released the Altra, an electrified version of the R’nessa, was equipped with a 62 kW magnet neodymium electric motor and was powered by lithium-ion batteries manufactured by Sony (NYSE:SNE). With a range of 120-140 miles, the Altra boasted mileage greater than many EVs on the road today. However, Nissan folded the program in 2001 due to EV concerns and lack of infrastructure that resulted in low demand. The 200 Altras that were built were used primarily for municipal and fleet purposes.