History and Future of Electric Cars
Introduced more than 100 years ago, electric cars are seeing a rise in popularity today for many of the same reasons they were first popular.
Whether it’s a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or all-electric, the demand for electric drive vehicles will continue to climb as prices drop and consumers look for ways to save money at the pump. Currently more than 3 percent of new vehicle sales, electric vehicles sales could to grow to nearly 7 percent — or 6.6 million per year — worldwide by 2020, according to a report by Navigant Research.
With this growing interest in in the history and future electric cars ,we are taking a look at where this technology has been and where it’s going. Travel back in time with us as we explore the history of the electric car.
The birth of the electric vehicle
It’s challenging to attribute the development of the history and future electric cars to a single individual or nation. Instead, it was a succession of innovations made in the 1800s, starting with the battery and ending with the electric motor, that made the first electric car a reality.
Innovators in Hungary, the Netherlands, and the United States, including a blacksmith from Vermont, started experimenting with the idea of a battery-powered vehicle in the early part of the century and built some of the earliest small-scale electric cars. And although Robert Anderson, a British inventor, created the first rudimentary electric carriage around this time, some of the first functional electric cars weren’t created by French and English inventors until the second half of the 19th century.
William Morrison, a Des Moines, Iowa chemist, is credited with developing the first practical electric car in the United States in the 1890s. His six-passenger vehicle, which could reach a top speed of 14 mph, was essentially an electrified wagon, but it contributed to the interest in electric cars.
The following few years saw the emergence of electric cars from various automakers all around the country. Even a fleet of more than 60 electric taxis existed in New York City. Electric vehicles reached their peak in 1900, making up around one-third of all vehicles on the road. They maintained their outstanding sales for the following ten years.
The early rise and fall of the electric car
Understanding the evolution of the personal vehicle and the alternatives available can help us better understand why electric vehicles were so popular about 1900. The horse was still the main form of transportation at the turn of the century. However, as Americans’ wealth increased, they began using the newly created motor vehicle, which came in steam, gasoline, and electric variations, to go around.
Steam was a tried-and-true energy source that had worked well to power both trains and factories. Steam-powered some of the earliest self-propelled vehicles in the late 1700s, but it wasn’t until the 1870s that the technology became widely used in automobiles. Some of this occurred because steam was not a practical fuel for passenger cars. It took a while for steam vehicles to take hold of cars.
Electric cars quickly gained popularity among urban residents, especially women, as they had none of the problems with steam or gasoline and were quiet, simple to operate, and didn’t emit a smelly pollutant like the other cars of the time. They were ideal for short trips around the city, and poor road conditions outside cities meant few cars of any type could venture farther. As more people gained access to electricity in the 1910s, it became easier to purchase electric cars.
Thanks to advancements made to the internal combustion engine in the 1800s, a new form of vehicle — the gasoline-powered car — also entered the market at the same time as electric vehicles. Gasoline cars had potential, but they also had drawbacks. They were difficult for some people to run since they required a lot of manual labor to drive—changing gears was no simple process, and they had to be started with a hand crank. They also produced nasty emissions and were noisy.