Many automobile industry experts believe that electric cars are the future of transportation. Also, with soaring gas prices and stringent environmental laws being implemented globally, many automakers have taken great interest in the electric vehicle route. In this post, we travel back in time and learn about the history of electric cars. Keep reading to know more.
In the early 1800s, buggies and horses were the primary modes of transportation. However, inventors worldwide were looking at an alternative option, which led to the birth of electric cars.
All the cars invented in this period by many innovators were crude and could not be used for day-to-day purposes. Scottish innovator Robert Anderson and American innovator Thomas Davenport are credited for building the first practical electric car (they built it in different years).
Development and commercial use
There was a drawback in the cars built by Robert Anderson and Thomas Davenport – these cars used non-rechargeable batteries. But this problem was fixed after the invention of rechargeable lead-acid batteries in 1859.
The first electric car in the United States was built by Des Moines resident William Morrison in 1891. Following this, electric cars of different makes and models gained popularity. In 1897, in New York City, electric taxis hit the street, and in the same year, the Pope Manufacturer Company became the large-scale manufacturer of electric automobiles in the U.S.
After understanding the potential of electric vehicles, Thomas Edison wanted to create long-lasting batteries for electric vehicles. He abandoned the effort, but the research did help in making alkaline batteries.
Introduction of the internal combustion engine and the downfall of electric cars
By 1900, electric vehicles began gaining great support in the United States. The elites, socialites, and business people in the country considered owning an electric vehicle a status symbol. Electric cars were so popular that, in 1900, a third of all vehicles on the road were electric cars or taxis! Little did they know all this would change because of a German automotive engineer called Karl Benz.
In 1886, Karl Benz invented the world’s first car that used an internal combustion engine (ICE). Over time further developments in the ICE engines made it more refined and usable. In 1908, Henry Ford introduced the mass production Model T, a watershed moment in automotive history.
The introduction of better roadways and the discovery of Texas crude oil further fuelled the rise of fuel-powered cars. Due to the abundant availability and affordable prices of crude oil, the production of gasoline vehicles became rampant. By 1936, the American public had long forgotten electric cars.
The other reasons for the downfall of electric vehicles are poor charging power of the batteries, low power, and high maintenance.
The resurrection of electric cars happened in the 1990s after governments across the world started to implement stricter environmental laws and because of the soaring gas prices. Meanwhile, many big and small industry players tried developing electric vehicles but failed to garner support.
This was finally possible in 1996 when General Motors released EV1. The EV1 was the first mass-produced electric vehicle by a major automobile company, and Toyota quickly followed by releasing the Prius, the first mass-produced hybrid car.
The upward trend
Slowly over the years, automotive companies began bettering the EV technology. The EV industry reached its apogee when Tesla Motors announced the production of a luxury electric sports car that can clock 200 mph. Pretty soon, other manufacturers began working on their electric cars.
The popularity of electric cars helped develop charging stations throughout the United States. The Energy Department installed chargers throughout the country. Soon other private companies and automotive companies installed chargers.
Another main reason for the popularity of EVs is the drop in the price of batteries. The battery is often the most expensive part of an EV. Thanks to Energy Department’s investment in the field, the battery cost dropped by 50 percent in just four years. As a result, EVs became more affordable.
Today, all major automotive manufacturers produce EVs at affordable prices. Not just automobile manufacturers but policymakers are in the game. In December 2021, President Biden’s administration set a target for EVs to make up 50% of all new car sales in the U.S. by 2030. Currently, only 1% of the country’s 250 million vehicles are electric!
With great support from consumers, manufacturers, and the government, without any doubt, the EV industry is in its golden era.
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