History of the electric vehicle
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Electric vehicles first appeared in the mid-19th century. An electric vehicle held the vehicular land speed record until around 1900. The high cost, low top speed, and short range of battery electric vehicles, compared to later internal combustion engine vehicles, led to a worldwide decline in their use; although electric vehicles have continued to be used in the form of electric trains and other niche uses.
At the beginning of the 21st century, interest in electric and other alternative fuel vehicles has increased due to growing concern over the problems associated with hydrocarbon-fueled vehicles, including damage to the environment caused by their emissions, and the sustainability of the current hydrocarbon-based transportation infrastructure as well as improvements in electric vehicle technology.
Early history First practical electric cars
Rechargeable batteries that provided a viable means for storing electricity on board a vehicle did not come into being until 1859, with the invention of the lead–acid battery by French physicist Gaston Planté. Camille Alphonse Faure, another French scientist, significantly improved the design of the battery in 1881; his improvements greatly increased the capacity of such batteries and led directly to their manufacture on an industrial scale.
An early electric-powered two-wheel cycle was put on display at the 1867 World Exposition in Paris by the Austrianinventor Franz Kravogl, but it was regarded as a curiosity and could not drive reliably in the street. Another cycle, this time with three wheels, was tested along a Paris street in April 1881 by French inventor Gustave Trouvé
English inventor Thomas Parker, who was responsible for innovations such as electrifying the London Underground, overhead tramways in Liverpool and Birmingham, and the smokeless fuel coalite, built the first production electric car in London in 1884, using his own specially designed high-capacity rechargeable batteries.Parker's long-held interest in the construction of more fuel-efficient vehicles led him to experiment with electric vehicles. He also may have been concerned about the malign effects smoke and pollution were having in London.
Production of the car was in the hands of the Elwell-Parker Company, established in 1882 for the construction and sale of electric trams. The company merged with other rivals in 1888 to form the Electric Construction Corporation; this company had a virtual monopoly on the British electric car market in the 1890s. The company manufactured the first electric 'dog cart' in 1896.
France and the United Kingdom were the first nations to support the widespread development of electric vehicles .The first electric car in Germany was built by the engineer Andreas Flocken in 1888.
Electric trains were also used to transport coal out of mines, as their motors did not use up precious oxygen. Before the pre-eminence of internal combustion engines, electric automobiles also held many speed and distance records.Among the most notable of these records was the breaking of the 100 km/h (62 mph) speed barrier, by Camille Jenatzyon 29 April 1899 in his 'rocket-shaped' vehicle Jamais Contente, which reached a top speed of 105.88 km/h (65.79 mph). Also notable was Ferdinand Porsche's design and construction of an all-wheel drive electric car, powered by a motor in each hub, which also set several records in the hands of its owner E.W. Hart.
The first American electric car was developed in 1890-91 by William Morrison of Des Moines, Iowa; the vehicle was a six-passenger wagon capable of reaching a speed of 14 miles per hour (23 km/h). It was not until 1895 that Americans began to devote attention to electric vehicles, after A.L. Ryker introduced the first electric tricycles to the U.S., by that point, Europeans had been making use of electric tricycles, bicycles, and cars for almost 15 years.
Interest in motor vehicles increased greatly in the late 1890s and early 1900s. Electric battery-powered taxis became available at the end of the 19th century. In London, Walter C. Bersey designed a fleet of such cabs and introduced them to the streets of London in 1897. They were soon nicknamed 'Hummingbirds’ due to the idiosyncratic humming noise they made. In the same year in New York City, the Samuel's Electric Carriage and Wagon Company began running 12 electric hansom cabs. The company ran until 1898 with up to 62 cabs operating until it was reformed by its financiers to form the Electric Vehicle Company.
In 1911, the first gasoline-electric hybrid car was released by the Woods Motor Vehicle Company of Chicago. The hybrid was a commercial failure, proving to be too slow for its price, and too difficult to service.
Columbia Riker Electric Car from 1901
Due to technological limitations and the lack of transistor-based electric technology, the top speed of these early electric vehicles was limited to about 32 km/h (20 mph). Despite this slow speed, electric vehicles had a number of advantages over their early-1900s competitors. They did not have the vibration, smell, and noise associated with gasoline cars. They also did not require gear changes. (While steam-powered cars also had no gear shifting, they suffered from long start-up times of up to 45 minutes on cold mornings.) The cars were also preferred because they did not require a manual effort to start, as did gasoline cars which featured a hand crank to start the engine.
Electric cars found popularity among well-heeled customers who used them as city cars, where their limited range proved to be even less of a disadvantage. Electric cars were often marketed as suitable vehicles for women drivers due to their ease of operation; in fact, early electric cars were stigmatized by the perception that they were "women's cars", leading some companies to affix radiators to the front to disguise the car's propulsion system.
Acceptance of electric cars was initially hampered by a lack of power infrastructure, but by 1912, many homes were wired for electricity, enabling a surge in the popularity of the cars. At the turn of the century, 40 percent of American automobiles were powered by steam, 38 percent by electricity, and 22 percent by gasoline. 33,842 electric cars were registered in the United States, and America became the country where electric cars had gained the most acceptance. Most early electric vehicles were massive, ornate carriages designed for the upper-class customers that made them popular. They featured luxurious interiors and were replete with expensive materials. Sales of electric cars peaked in the early 1910s.
In order to overcome the limited operating range of electric vehicles, and the lack of recharging infrastructure, an exchangeable battery service was first proposed as early as 1896. The concept was first put into practice by Hartford Electric Light Company through the GeVeCo battery service and initially available for electric trucks. The vehicle owner purchased the vehicle from General Vehicle Company (GVC, a subsidiary of the General Electric Company) without a battery and the electricity was purchased from Hartford Electric through an exchangeable battery. The owner paid a variable per-mile charge and a monthly service fee to cover maintenance and storage of the truck. Both vehicles and batteries were modified to facilitate a fast battery exchange. The service was provided between 1910 and 1924 and during that period covered more than 6 million miles. Beginning in 1917 a similar successful service was operated in Chicago for owners of Milburn Light Electric cars who also could buy the vehicle without the batteries.
Rauch Lang Electric Car from 1908
After enjoying success at the beginning of the 20th century, the electric car began to lose its position in the automobile market. A number of developments contributed to this situation. By the 1920s an improved road infrastructure required vehicles with a greater range than that offered by electric cars. Worldwide discoveries of large petroleum reserves led to the wide availability of affordable gasoline, making gas-powered cars cheaper to operate over long distances. Electric cars were limited to urban use by their slow speed (no more than 24–32 km/h or 15–20 mph.) and low range (30–40 miles or 50–65 km), and gasoline cars were now able to travel farther and faster than equivalent electrics.
Gasoline cars became ever easier to operate thanks to the invention of the electric starter by Charles Kettering in 1912, which eliminated the need of a hand crank for starting a gasoline engine, and the noise emitted by ICE cars became more bearable thanks to the use of the muffler, which Hiram Percy Maxim had invented in 1897. Finally, the initiation of mass production of gas-powered vehicles by Henry Ford brought their price down. By contrast, the price of similar electric vehicles continued to rise; by 1912, an electric car sold for almost double the price of a gasoline car.
Most electric car makers stopped production at some point in the 1910s. Electric vehicles became popular for certain applications where their limited range did not pose major problems. Forklift trucks were electrically powered when they were introduced by Yale in 1923. In Europe, especially the United Kingdom, milk floats were powered by electricity, and for most of the 20th century the majority of the world's battery electric road vehicles were British milk floats.Electric golf carts were produced by Lektro as early as 1954. By the 1920s, the early heyday of electric cars had passed, and a decade later, the electric automobile industry had effectively disappeared. Michael Brian examines the social and technological reasons for the failure of electric cars in his book Taking Charge: The Electric Automobile in America.
Years passed without a major revival in the use of electric cars. Fuel-starved European countries fighting in World War II experimented with electric cars (such as the British milk floats and the French Breguet Aviation car), but overall, while ICE development progressed at a brisk pace, electric vehicle technology stagnated. In the late 1950s, Henney Coachworks and the National Union Electric Company, makers of Exide batteries, formed a joint venture to produce a new electric car, the Henney Kilowatt, based on the European Renault Dauphine. The car was produced in 36-volt and 72-volt configurations; the 72-volt models had a top speed approaching 96 km/h (60 mph) and could travel for nearly an hour on a single charge. Despite the Kilowatt's improved performance with respect to previous electric cars, consumers found it too expensive compared to equivalent gasoline cars of the time, and production ended in 1961.
In 1959, American Motors Corporation (AMC) and Sonotone Corporation announced a joint research effort to consider producing an electric car powered by a "self-charging" battery. AMC had a reputation for innovation in economical cars while Sonotone had technology for making sintered plate nickel-cadmium batteries that could be recharged rapidly and weighed less than traditional lead-acid versions. That same year, Nu-Way Industries showed an experimental electric car with a one-piece plastic body that was to begin production in early 1960.
Bradley GTE Electric Car from 1979
The U.S. and Canada Big Three automakers had their own electric car programs during the late-1960s. In 1967, much smaller AMC partnered with Gulton Industries to develop a new battery based on lithium and a speed controller designed by Victor Wouk. A nickel-cadmium battery supplied power to an all-electric 1969 Rambler American station wagon. Other "plug-in" experimental AMC vehicles developed with Gulton included the Amitron (1967) and the similar Electron (1977). More battery-electric concept cars appeared over the years, such as the Scottish Aviation Scamp (1965), the Enfield 8000(1966) and two electric versions of General Motors gasoline cars, the Electrovair (1966) and Electrovette (1976).None of them entered production.
1990s: Revival of interest
After years outside the limelight, the energy crises of the 1970s and 1980s brought about renewed interest in the perceived independence electric cars had from the fluctuations of the hydrocarbon energy market. At the 1990 Los Angeles Auto Show, General Motors President Roger Smith unveiled the GM Impact electric concept car, along with the announcement that GM would build electric cars for sale to the public.
In the early 1990s, the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the government of California's "clean air agency", began a push for more fuel-efficient, lower-emissions vehicles, with the ultimate goal being a move to zero-emissions vehicles such as electric vehicles. In response, automakers developed electric models, including the Chrysler TEVan, Ford Ranger EV pickup truck, GM EV1 and S10 EV pickup, Honda EV Plus hatchback, Nissan lithium-battery Altra EV miniwagon and Toyota RAV4 EV. The automakers were accused of pandering to the wishes of CARB in order to continue to be allowed to sell cars in the lucrative Californian market, while failing to adequately promote their electric vehicles in order to create the impression that the consumers were not interested in the cars, all the while joining oil industry lobbyists in vigorously protesting CARB's mandate. GM's program came under particular scrutiny; in an unusual move, consumers were not allowed to purchase EV1s, but were instead asked to sign closed-end leases, meaning that the cars had to be returned to GM at the end of the lease period, with no option to purchase, despite lessor interest in continuing to own the cars. Chrysler, Toyota, and a group of GM dealers sued CARB in Federal court, leading to the eventual neutering of CARB's ZEV Mandate.
After public protests by EV drivers' groups upset by the repossession of their cars, Toyota offered the last 328 RAV4-EVs for sale to the general public during six months, up until 22 November 2002. Almost all other production electric cars were withdrawn from the market and were in some cases seen to have been destroyed by their manufacturers. Toyota continues to support the several hundred Toyota RAV4-EV in the hands of the general public and in fleet usage. GM famously de-activated the few EV1s that were donated to engineering schools and museums.
1997 Toyota RAV4 EV Electric Car battery location
Throughout the 1990s, interest in fuel-efficient or environmentally friendly cars declined among Americans, who instead favored sport utility vehicles, which were affordable to operate despite their poor fuel efficiency thanks to lower gasoline prices. American automakers chose to focus their product lines around the truck-based vehicles, which enjoyed larger profit margins than the smaller cars which were preferred in places like Europe or Japan. In 1999, the Honda Insighthybrid car became the first hybrid to be sold in North America since the little-known Woods hybrid of 1917.
Hybrid electric vehicles, which featured a combined gasoline and electric powertrain, were seen as a balance, offering an environmentally friendly image and improved fuel economy, without being hindered by the low range of electric vehicles, albeit at an increased price over comparable gasoline cars. Sales were poor, the lack of interest attributed to the car's small size and the lack of necessity for a fuel-efficient car at the time. The 2000s energy crisis brought renewed interest in hybrid and electric cars. In America, sales of the Toyota Prius (which had been on sale since 1999 in some markets) jumped, and a variety of automakers followed suit, releasing hybrid models of their own. Several began to produce new electric car prototypes, as consumers called for cars that would free them from the fluctuations of oil prices.
In response to a lack of large-automaker participation in the electric car industry, a number of small companies cropped up in their place, designing and marketing electric cars for the public. In 1994, the REVA Electric Car Company was established in Bangalore, India, as a joint venture between the Maini Group India and AEV of California. After seven years of research and development, it launched the REVAi an all-electric small micro car, known as the G-Wiz i in the United Kingdom, in 2001. The car was powered by lead–acid batteries, and in January 2009, a new model was launched, the REVA L-ion. It is similar to the REVAi but powered by high performance lithium-ion batteries, which reduce the car's curb weight. In many countries the REVAi does not meet the criteria to qualify as a highway-capable motor vehicle, and fits into other classes, such as neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV) in the United States and heavy quadricycle in Europe. The REVA sold more than 4,000 vehicles worldwide by March 2011 and was available in 26 countries. Sales in the UK, its main market, ended by late 2011. Production ended in 2012 and was replaced by the Mahindra e2o in 2013.
Most electric vehicles on the world roads are low-speed, low-range neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs). Pike Research estimated there were almost 479,000 NEVs on the world roads in 2011. As of July 2006, there were between 60,000 and 76,000 low-speed battery-powered vehicles in use in the United States, up from about 56,000 in 2004. North America's top selling NEV is the Global Electric Motorcars(GEM) vehicles, with more than 50,000 units sold worldwide by mid 2014. The world's two largest NEV markets in 2011 were the United States, with 14,737 units sold, and France, with 2,231 units. Other micro electric cars sold in Europe was the Kewet, since 1991, and replaced by the Buddy, launched in 2008. Also the Th!nk City was launched in 2008 but production was halted due to financial difficulties. Production restarted in Finland in December 2009.The Th!nk was sold in several European countries and the U.S. In June 2011 Think Global filed for bankruptcy and production was halted. Worldwide sales reached 1,045 units by March 2011.A total of 200,000 low-speed small electric cars were sold in China in 2013, most of which are powered by lead-acid batteries. These electric vehicles not considered by the government as new energy vehicles due to safety and environmental concerns, and consequently, do not enjoy the same benefits as highway legal plug-in electric cars.
1997 General Motors EV1 Electric Car
2000s to present
The global economic recession in the late 2000s led to increased calls for automakers to abandon fuel-inefficient SUVs, which were seen as a symbol of the excess that caused the recession, in favor of small cars, hybrid cars, and electric cars.
California electric car maker Tesla Motors began development in 2004 on the Tesla Roadster, which was first delivered to customers in 2008. The Roadster was the first highway legal serial production all-electric car to use lithium-ion battery cells, and the first production all-electric car to travel more than 200 miles (320 km) per charge.Since 2008, Tesla sold approximately 2,450 Roadsters in over 30 countries through December 2012. Tesla sold the Roadster until early 2012, when its supply of Lotus Elise gliders run out, as its contract with Lotus Cars for 2,500 gliders expired at the end of 2011. Tesla stopped taking orders for the Roadster in the U.S. market in August 2011, and the 2012 Tesla Roadster was sold in limited numbers only in Europe, Asia and Australia. The Tesla vehicle, the Model S was released in the U.S. on June 22, 2012 and the first delivery of a Model S to a retail customer in Europe took place on August 7, 2013. Deliveries in China began on April 22, 2014. The next model was the Tesla Model X. In November 2014 Tesla delayed one more time the start of deliveries to retail customers, and announced the company expects Model X deliveries to begin in the third quarter of 2015.