Electric Vehicles have arrived for good after a history of setbacks

The electric vehicle may be branded as the new and exciting car of the future, but unknown to most people, the history of the electric vehicle reaches right back to the early days of the gas-powered automobile.

The first electric vehicle to ever hit the market came in 1890, when William Morrison invented a vehicle capable of travelling 14 miles per hour. This EV came some 60 years after Robert Anderson invented the first known non-rechargeable power cell vehicle.

Electric vehicles were hit among early consumers as they were more reliable than the other new technology, the steam-powered vehicle, and were far quieter. By 1900, one third of vehicles on the roads in the US were electric.

It looked like the electric vehicle was well and truly taking off.

Thomas Edison and Henry Ford joined forces to develop the Edison-Ford electric vehicles as the 20th century got underway. Edison, a key player in technological advancements at the time, had a vision that electric powered vehicles would soon be the overwhelming vehicle of choice on the roads.

It appears Edison may have been a bit ahead of his time however, and in 1915 after $US1.5million had been sunk into the project ($AUD52million today), the Edison-Ford vehicle was scrapped when Ford released the gas-powered Model T vehicle. A much cheaper, more efficient vehicle, the Model T became the vehicle of choice with the discovery of Texas crude oil, pushing gasoline prices down around the country and spelling the end for electric vehicle progress.

Ford and other gasoline powered vehicles would hold a monopoly on the roads for the next 50 years, until rising oil prices in the 1970s led the US Department of Energy to begin research on alternate means of transport.

Progress was slow until the 1990’s when the Clean Air Act was put in place and focus was placed once again on electric and renewable vehicles.

Japanese car manufacturing brand, Toyota, sensed changes coming to the industry, and in 1997 released the Prius hybrid model. The Prius performed exceptionally well as the world’s first mass-produced gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle, selling approximately 2 million vehicles in the first decade.

Even after seeing the popularity of the world’s first hybrid vehicle, electric vehicles were dogged with the opinion that they were “boring but virtuous”. They weren’t fast, exciting or sleek and were seen as a car for environmental hippies and rich people wanting to look environmentally savvy.

This opinion wouldn’t last however, and in the late 2000’s electric vehicles became the talk of the town with Tesla’s new enthusiastic CEO, Elon Musk, coming out with his exciting, futuristic visions of the electric vehicle. As we see today, Musk’s exciting and sometimes outrageous claims involving electric vehicles have us sitting up and taking notice.

Following Musk on his electric venture is a raft of other car manufacturers, and with climate change becoming an increasingly larger threat to the earth, electric vehicles have once again grabbed our attention.

Governments around the world are putting increasingly tighter restrictions on car makers to produce more and more environmentally efficient vehicles, with many countries offering subsidies for those who purchase electric vehicles.

In Australia, the uptake of electric vehicles has lagged behind many other places, with vehicle prices, along with a lack of charging infrastructure and technology being blamed. However, the Australian government are slowly getting behind the concept and has declared charging stations as one of its highest priority initiatives. Work has commenced on a $15million network of ultra-fast electric charging stations on highways around the country to prepare for the expected increase in electric vehicle sales, signalling that electric vehicles are here for good.

While we have seen false dawns from electric vehicles before, it appears as though the renewable technology is here for real. The investments being made from manufacturers, governments and technology start-ups have created a rapidly growing industry that looks set to overtake the traditional fuel-powered vehicle and alter the automotive industry as we know it.

Original source: ACAPMAg | Why the electric vehicle’s time has come

27 Aug 2019 

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