If you really want to know who killed the electric car, we'll tell you. It's Charles Kettering, and he did it with — surprisingly — an electric motor.
At the dawn of the automotive era, three energy sources were battling for supremacy to drive the automobile: gasoline, electricity and steam. Each had major drawbacks.
Gasoline was expensive, hard to find and dangerous to handle. Worse, cars with gasoline engines had to be hand-cranked, a risky, potentially bone-breaking activity.
Electric cars use batteries to store energy, which is fed to a motor that drives the wheels. But the lead-acid batteries used in early electric vehicles were heavy; driving range was extremely limited — maybe 50 miles max — the vehicles were extremely slow; and charging times were long.
Steam-powered vehicles — which outsold gasoline-powered cars from 1899 to 1905 — were slow to fire up and get rolling, and they took the skills of an engineer to operate the levers, pumps, handles and pressure valves.