I recently saw a commercial for electric cars and it made me wonder: when did electric cars start out? I first thought that it might have been in the ’60s or ’70s so I decided to do some research. I was surprised to discover that electric vehicles date back earlier than the middle of the 20th century.
We are mistaken if we consider Electric cars a product of the modern age. The history of electric cars starts with the history of cars itself. Although traditional automakers are now fiercely investing in electric cars, and Tesla has built its empire on battery-powered cars, it is not just now that electric cars are grabbing so much attention. Their rich history tells us that they surpassed fuel powered cars at one time.
The timeline of electric cars is filled with many twists and turns. At one time, electric vehicles were the most popular cars and at other times they almost went extinct. There were episodes of glorified revivals and episodes of oblivion.
Here’s a look at how battery powered cars have evolved over time.
The Dawn of Electric Cars
The birth of the electric car was not just one event. There were multiple breakthroughs and several swings from batteries to electric motors. It was only then that the first electric car took to the roads. The innovators took complete pleasure in playing around with the concept of battery-powered vehicles and initially created small-scale vehicles. The first practical electric car came into the picture in the second half of the nineteenth century. The debut of electric cars in the United States is credited to William Morrison, a chemist. His six-wheeler ignited the interest in electric vehicles which is going in full swing even now.
Following this breakthrough, many automakers in the early 1900s started manufacturing electric cars. The roads of New York City were bombarded with electric cars and their share in the list of overall vehicles expanded. The time period following their gloried birth was opulent for electric cars as their sales kept increasing for almost two decades.
Early Ups and Downs of Electric Cars
When electric cars first came into the picture, it was during a time when people still used horses for transportation. As prosperity is the most charmed attribute of Americans, they started buying cars. Steam, at that time, was the most reliable energy source powering industry, trains, and even had immense application in domestic activities. Manufacturers thought that relying on steam for vehicles could be the best resort. To their dismay, steam had low practicality due to long startup times and the high number of refills it required. This bolstered the market for electric cars which came into existence at a very optimal time. Then again, winning the game of automobiles was not easy for electric cars as they were soon gained competition with gasoline power. But the gasoline had a myriad of faults: the hasty job of shifting gears, the noise, and smell, all served in favor of electric cars.
These electric vehicles were quiet, they didn’t give tough time to the driver, and most importantly, they were eco-friendly. This was a time when people started getting electricity in their houses and it became even easier to charge their electric cars. This further boosted the sale of electric cars and so began the glorified era of electric cars.
Unfortunately, electric cars would only enjoy this glory only for a limited time and their suppressed rival revived in full power. While gasoline-powered cars were priced around $650 at that time, the price of electric cars was around $1800, three times more than their competitors. The growth and development of electric cars suffered soon after that while gasoline powered cars emerged.
During the late 1960s, America was thrashed with soaring oil prices and a shortage of gasoline. The authorities at that time took strong measures to fund research on electric cars as it was the need of the hour. Research on hybrid and electric vehicles took on new roads and electric cars once again reserved marked market share in the automobile industry. Electric vehicles had some serious drawbacks which shortened their reign of growth to some 5 to 6 years. This time they succumbed due to their limited engine power in comparison to gas-powered vehicles.
Cut to the last few years of the 20th century and electric cars became a redundant topic. Only the new amendments and a defined list of regulations by Congress have sparked new interest in the automobile industry. New laws were passed under the Clean Air Act regarding the serious consequences of transportation emissions. Automobile makers reincarnated the idea of electric cars and started modifying the vehicles. Once again, the limited engine power and high production costs halted the growth of electric cars.
To New Beginnings
Increased awareness and concern among people regarding the safety and preservation of the environment spurred the interest in electric cars once again. However, things were entirely different this time since Tesla entered the scene and was bringing electric cars back to life.
The overwhelming success of hybrid cars is slowing gearing us towards the use of cars that run solely on electricity, a clean source of energy. Watching hybrids like the Toyota Prius congesting main highways and roads tells us that there will come a time when battery powered cars will be the only vehicles inhabiting the roads in North America and that time is not far away anymore.