Rising gasoline prices have made the cost of owning and operating gasoline powered vehicles more expensive. With several new advances in battery technology, several new models available and increasing popularity in every market, it is becoming clear that the electric vehicle will become a primary mode of transportation in the future. Surprisingly, the technology to produce electric vehicles has existed for nearly 200 years and they were the primary method of transportation at the turn of the 20th century until a viable gasoline model was produced by Henry Ford.
It all began in 1832 when Robert Anderson developed an electric carriage that was powered by non-rechargeable batteries. In 1891 an American named William Morrison built the first successful electric automobile in the United States. This was later followed by Thomas Edison’s quest of building a battery that would enable the electric car to be an economically viable option. His research resulted in the development of a better alkaline battery.
In 1900 nearly thirty percent of all cars were electric. This soon changed in 1908 when Henry Ford produced the gasoline powered Model T. The biggest challenge early on for the electric car was its ability to travel long distances. The new gasoline powered Model T fixed this problem and began to control the market.
In 1912 Charles Kettering developed the first electric vehicle starter which allowed gasoline vehicles to start without the burdensome hand crank. At this point the prevalence of electric vehicles began to decline. By the 1920s, the electric vehicle was no longer in demand on a wide scale because of the range and horsepower limitations.
A 2006 Docmentary details the history of electric cars: 'Who Killed The Elecrtic Car'
The film deals with the history of the electric car, its modern development, and commercialization. The film focuses primarily on the General Motors EV1, which was made available for lease mainly in Southern California, after the California Air Resources Board (CARB) passed the Zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) mandate in 1990 which required the seven major automobile suppliers in the United States to offer electric vehicles in order to continue sales of their gasoline powered vehicles in California. Nearly 5000 electric cars were designed and manufactured by GM, Toyota, Honda, Ford, Nissan, and Chrysler; and then later destroyed or donated to museums and educational institutions. Source: Wikipedia
In 1966, Congress introduced legislation that recommended electric vehicle production to reduce air pollution. Over the next 30 years the gasoline powered vehicles continued to dominate the market until in 1997 when Toyota built the Hybrid-Prius, which utilized both electric and gasoline technologies. The Prius was popular right off the bat and sold almost 18,000 models during its first production year. Between 1997 and 2000, automakers such as Toyota, Chevy, Honda, Ford and Nissan experimented with producing a few all electric models with limited production that were discontinued in early 2000.
The Prius was a great cost saver and the market became interested in electric automobiles once again. The development of the Prius inspired an entrepreneur by the name of Elon Musk to embark on a task to develop an economically viable 100% electric automobile. Auto industry skeptics did not expect Musk to be able to produce a profitable all-electric vehicle that would be appealing to consumers. Musk was determined to prove the skeptics wrong and truly believed that the electric car was a necessary component of society. Air pollution was continuously getting worse and global warming was becoming a very real issue across the world.
In 2006 Tesla Motors unveiled the sporty Tesla Roadster at the San Francisco International Auto Show. The first roadster was sold in 2008 and its base price was a staggering $98,950. This obviously was unaffordable to the average American and a better battery had to be developed. In July of 2008, gas prices reached over $4 dollars a gallon and car sales dropped the lowest in over a decade. Governments around the world began to realize that electric automobiles are a necessity in order to protect the environment and develop energy independence.
In June of 2009, the United States Government loaned over $8 billion dollars to Ford, Tesla, and Nissan to support the development of an economically viable electric automobile. In August of that year, Nissan revealed the all-electric Leaf which had a 100 mile range and a maximum speed of over 90 mph. This was the first mass market electric vehicle to be produced by a major automaker.
The success of the Leaf ended up being the catalyst for other auto manufacturers to start producing their own electric vehicle models. Since Nissan released the Leaf, models such as the Ford Focus Electric, Smart electric drive, Volvo C30, Chevy Volt (extended range electric vehicle), Tesla Model S, Renault Fluence Z.E., Honda Fit EV, BMW ActiveE and several others have been produced, with several more in the works.
At this point the biggest challenge for electric vehicles is range, infrastructure and public awareness. Regardless of these challenges, lithium ion battery technology continues to improve, and it seems inevitable that the electric vehicle will continue to rise in popularity, as the sales of electric vehicles increase throughout the world.