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History of Electric Cars

What is the difference between an electric car and a conventional car? Your standard car uses an internal combustion engine that is powered by fuel. An electric car has an electric motor that requires charged batteries to function. Instead of stopping at a gas station, an electric car driver would need to stop to recharge the batteries. There are a number of different types of batteries compatible with electric cars. Lead Acid ones are cheap and they are 97% recyclable. However, Lithium Ion batteries yield better performance.

It is certainly a misconception to think that electric cars are simply a recent response to higher gas prices. The first electric car was actually invented in the 1830s by Robert Anderson in Scotland. It was really just a cell-powered carriage, but it was the spark that ignited the automobile industry. By 1859, a rechargeable battery for use in automobiles was developed by Gaston Plante in France. The U.S. caught on in 1891 when William Morrison designed the county’s first electric automobile. With it, a craze began. In fact, in 1899 and 1900, electric cars far outsold all other types. Of course, in these days the vehicles could only travel 14 mph and needed to be recharged after 18 miles. Electric cars were favored because they required no gear shifting.

Unfortunately, it seemed the United States was developing faster than the electric car could. Suddenly there was need for a car that could travel more than 18 miles at once. The price of gasoline dropped and Henry Ford designed cheap, gas-powered cars that the large middle class could afford. Cars were no longer for the rich, but they also weren’t electric.
Internal combustion engines went fairly unquestioned into the 1960s and 70s. However, some companies began to discover just how much harm emissions were causing the atmosphere. Names such as Battronic, Sebring-Vanguard and Elcar designed more practical electric cars, but they were never quite as efficient or popular as their competitors.

In 1988, General Motors funded production of an electric car called the EV1. It failed on the market. Many claim that GM had sabotaged its own car in favor of standard automobiles. Several documentary films have covered this issue including 1989’s Roger and Me and 2006’s Who Killed the Electric Car? In 2003, GM refused to supply replacement parts for the EV1 and later crushed all broken models.

With further criticism of vehicle emissions, government agencies began to pass laws and legislation regulating the development of vehicles with high levels of emissions. One of the most noble efforts was the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles. Proposed by the Clinton administration, it aimed to raise vehicle efficiency to 80 mpg. Vehicles meeting this goal were to be targeted by 1997, designed by 2000 and were to have a prototype ready by 2004. Based on the cars we drive today, the goal was clearly not met. However, the first two steps actually were completed on time. In 2000, Chrysler, Ford and GM announced the ESX3, the Prodigy and the Precept respectively. None had ever made it to market. However, interest in more fuel efficient cars had increased greatly. Japanese manufacturers Honda and Toyota released hybrid vehicles that could run with a combination of gasoline and electricity. Honda’s insight could run at 57 mpg and the Toyota Prius, which ended up winning car of the year in 2004, could go 60 mpg.

With modern technologies, electric cars have the potential to rise from the grave. However, for the vehicles to succeed, there will need to be a number of accommodations. People do not want to make their lives more complex, but they are willing to make slight changes when provided with the resources. One idea is parking spaces that could charge your car wirelessly while you’re at work. Another is designing batteries that can be recharged quickly and that can be used to travel a longer number of miles. Most batteries can only take a car 150 miles without needing a charge. 

  1. The Automobile and the Environment

  2. Clinton & Gore Strengthen Energy Security

  3. DIY Electric Car

  4. Driving the Future

  5. Electric Cars

  6. How Hybrids Work

  7. Electric Cars – Under the Hood

  8. Electric Car Owners Club

  9. EV History

  10. FreedomCAR (PDF)

  11. “Failed” Car Technology

  12. History of Early and Recent EVs

  13. History of the Electric Car

  14. History of Electric Vehicles

  15. Hybrid Electric Vehicles

  16. Online Battery Simulators

  17. Origin of Electric Cars

  18. Plug-In Hybrid

  19. PNGV

  20. PNGV Battery Development (PDF)

  21. Stages of Electric Car History

  22. Timeline of Hybrid Cars

  23. Transport of the Past and Future (PDF)

  24. Vehicles for Change (PDF)

  25. Wireless Parking Space

  26. FreedomCAR (PDF)

  27. History of Early and Recent EVs

  28. History of the Electric Car

  29. History of Electric Vehicles

  30. Hybrid Electric Vehicles

  31. Online Battery Simulators

  32. Origin of Electric Cars

  33. Plug-In Hybrid

  34. PNGV

  35. PNGV Battery Development (PDF)

  36. Stages of Electric Car History

  37. Timeline of Hybrid Cars

  38. Transport of the Past and Future (PDF)

  39. Vehicles for Change (PDF)

  40. Wireless Parking Space

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