An electric car is a vehicle designed to drive using an electric motor, powered by an electrical charge often stored in a battery or other device. These batteries are rechargeable, meaning all you must do to ‘refuel’ is plug it into an outlet for a determined period of time. Most electric cars are quiet and have tons of torque, as they don’t have a combustion engine, unlike most cars on the road today.
As the technology continues to develop, electric, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid vehicles continue to grow increasingly popular. There are several reasons why, including higher gas costs, the desire to no longer be dependent on foreign fuel, and an increased awareness of global warming caused by heavy pollution. Also, the price for hybrid and electric cars continues to fall, making them more affordable.
You might think that electric cars are a new invention due to their recent popularity, but they were actually invented before combustion was used over a hundred years ago. It wasn’t a single carmaker or a solitary country who made the first electric car, but a series of different inventions made through the latter part of the 1800s in the Netherlands, Hungary, and the United States.
History of the Electric Car
In the U.S. specifically, the first commercially successful electric “car” made its arrival in 1890 in Des Moines, Iowa, invented by William Morrison. It wasn’t much more than an electric wagon that could hold six people and creeped along at 14 miles per hour. It was this invention that really got the minds churning to improve upon this concept.
By the time 1900 rolled around, electric cars hit their most popular levels. Even New York City had 60 of them on the road as the first real taxi service not using horse and buggy. As many as 1/3 of all the cars on the road were electric, but the popularity began to fall and even somewhat disappear as the combustion engine began to dominate the market.
The number one source of transportation during these early days was still the horse, but as the industrial revolution hit full throttle, people became more prosperous and could afford a set of wheels. Electric cars were popular because it was difficult to crank up a combustion engine. But a major shift happened in sales.
The early 1910s brought about advancements that would change the auto industry forever. Electric cars became more expensive to buy than gasoline ones…by quite a bit! It was $1,750 if you wanted an electric motor and $650 for gas. That meant more people were starting to buy gas-powered. Another invention, the electric starter, did away with the crank. Now the electric car had to compete with a cheaper, easier to use version of itself and it lost.
Influenced by Gas Prices
Thanks to super-affordable gasoline, electric cars were sparsely heard of for nearly 40-50 years. Advancements continued to improve when it came to the combustion engine, making them faster and more fuel efficient. No one had any need to consider going electric when they were so much more expensive.
It took an oil embargo and rising gas prices through the 1970s to get people interested in returning to electric. The United States Congress felt it was important not to become dependent on other nations for their oil, so they came up with the solution to pass the Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Research, Development, and Demonstration Act of 1976.
Not much happened with this initiative, as gas-powered cars were very much superior to the electric technology out at the time. Little advancement happened, as electric cars could only go about 40 miles on a single charge with a top speed of 45 MPH. They had no chance against the muscle cars that were much more popular during this period, disappearing for another twenty years.
By the time the 1990s rolled around, the electric car was all but dead. That was until people started to get concerned with the health of the environment. Pollution was a massive problem and the government wanted to do something about it. So, they passed the Clean Air Act Amendment in 1990.
As environmental awareness began to grow, and climate change became a regular part of our vocabulary, car companies decided to seek out an alternative. They had some success in advancing the electric car, improving their range to 60 miles. But gas prices were still cheap and no one really cared about buying electric just yet.
Over the past 20+ years, the advancements have continued to roll in and impress car buyers. In 2006, a small company named Tesla Motors decided they wanted to jump into the game and produce not just any type of car, but an electric sports car with enough luxury to compete with the biggest and the best car companies around. Their model could get over 200 miles on a single charge.
Combustion engine vehicles still dominate the car market, but as technological advances continue, and people become increasingly environmentally conscience, the electric car is slowly returning to its glory days. Now, companies are preparing for the day when electric will overcome gas-powered vehicles, ending our dependence on oil forever and potentially saving planet earth.