An Electric Car History | From The First Electric Motor To The Hybrid
With all of the current talk of electric vehicles, it is easy to mistake them for a modern invention. This is a false assumption however, as electric car history dates back to the early 1800s. It was at that time that Robert Anderson, an inventor, created an electric carriage that used non-rechargeable cells for power. However, this was a crude vehicle and not practical for use. Despite various inventions and advancements, the first real electric car in America was not built until 1891, by William Morrison of Des Moines, Iowa. During the early automotive years, electric cars had many advantages over steam-powered cars and cars that ran on gasoline. Steam cars required an extended start-up period, at times up to 45 minutes depending on the weather, that electric cars did not require. They also had a number of benefits over gas cars. They did not have gears to shift, which was one of the most difficult aspects of gasoline powered cars, they also did not require the manual crank start of gas cars. Other advantages of electric vehicles included the lack of vibration, no gasoline smell, and less noise.
Due to its numerous benefits over steam and gas cars, many believed that electric cars were poised to be the automobile of the future. Thomas Edison, for example, was of this mindset and even attempted to create a longer lasting battery. Despite his efforts, however, his attempts were fruitless. In 1897, the first electric auto manufacturer in America began to produce electric taxis, which could be found in New York City. In the history of the electric car, the early 20th century saw it at its most popular, making up one-third of the cars found in cities such as Boston, New York, and Chicago.
During this time, the internal combustion engine was invented. This is an engine in which a piston within a cylinder is pushed by a combustion of fuel. The piston is connected to the crankshaft which moves the axle, then the axle turns the wheels. The first two-stroke internal combustion engine was built and patented by Jean Joseph Etiene Lenoir in 1860. Further advancement of the internal combustion engine came in 1876 when Nikolause A. Otto invented the four-stroke engine. This gas-powered engine, however, was not automatically popular amongst earlier car drivers. The introduction of the Model-T by Henry Ford however, began to change this. Henry Ford and his mass production of gas cars elevated internal combustion cars to a new level of popularity that began to overshadow electric cars. Drivers wanted to drive longer and farther than electric vehicles could handle, and they also wanted the greater horsepower that came from gasoline. When the electric starter was invented, it officially replaced the manual crank starter. This marked a changing point in electric car history, and the road toward its demise was set. By the 1920s the production of electric vehicles had greatly diminished.
In more modern times, the electric car has begun to resurface. Although gasoline-powered vehicles are still dominant, environmental concerns such as air pollution has sparked an interest in electric cars. As early as the 1970s, Congress recommended electric cars as a method of reducing pollution in the air. During the mid 70s and early 80s there was an increase in research for both electric and hybrid vehicles. Hybrid vehicles are vehicles that utilize two power sources. The first hybrid was created back in 1899 and it was gasoline-electric. Almost a century later, Toyota released the Prius. This hybrid gas-electric vehicle has since obtained a high level of popularity in Japan where it was originally released and in the United States as well. In the early 1990s, California passed the Zero Emissions Vehicle Mandate. This mandate required that by the year 2003 ten percent of all vehicles would be zero emissions. From the late 1990s to 2000 several automakers released electric vehicles, however production ceased as most of the cars were lease-only and did not receive wide distribution. Many of the major current automobile manufacturers have hybrid cars and SUVs in their fleet. Only a few manufacturers have released full-electric vehicles, which still have not yet reached the level of popularity that hybrids have achieved. Concerns such as a lack of recharging car battery stations often hinder the sales of electric vehicles.
Although the history of the electric car had a long, rough start, it does have an important place in the history of automotive technology. Despite concerns, like the lack of recharging car battery stations, which can easily be overcome, there are many advantages and benefits to owning this type of car as well as hybrid vehicles. These “green vehicles” can help decrease the amount of pollution that is released into the air. They are also a wise choice in the event of an energy crisis, helping drivers save money during times of rising gas prices.
- The Early Electric Car Timeline
- Time Business & Money: Brief History of the Electric Car
- Hybrid Cars
- History of Hybrids
- Plug-I Hybrid Electric Vehicles
- Hybrid Technology
- Electric Cars: Transport of the Past and Future
- The Electric Vehicle
- The Invention of the Electric Motor 1800-1854
- Electric Car (PDF)
- Hybrids 101 Guide to Gasoline-Electric Hybrid Cars and Powertrains: Theory Behind Hybrid Cars and Hybrid Technologies
- South Coast Air Quality Management District: Transportation Programs Resources & Links
- Mid-America Electric Auto Association: EV and EV Related Web Pages
- Santa Monica Neighborhood Electric Vehicle Club: Links & Resources
- Milburn Light Electrics: Links
- EnergyTeachers.org: Electric and Hybrid Vehicles
- EV Canada: Links
- Electric Auto Association: Useful & Informative EV Links
- Tufts University: KDO’s electric car links
- Plug In America: EV Links & Resources
- Auto Be Yours: Plug In Hybrid Electric Vehicle PHEV
- Knoxville Electric Vehicle Association: EV Links
- Kentucky-Argonne: Links
- Electro Automotive: Links To Other Resources
- Smith Electric Vehicles: External Links
- PA Electrics: Electric Organizations
- Minnesota Electric Auto Association: Minnesota Links
- ElectricDrive.info: Links
- Las Vegas Electric Vehicle Club: Links
- Electric Auto Association, Flagstaff Chapter: Links
- EV Sports Car: Electric Vehicle Links
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Check out articles written by Jeanne Longhorne.