Even though the electric car arrived on the public scene first, it proved to be an unworthy competitor to the fuel powered vehicle, which was cheaper, faster and more reliable. But electric cars are taking centre-stage again.
Contrary to what most people believe, the electric car is not an invention of modern times. In fact, American and Dutch inventors first worked on small electric car models as far back as the 1830s. A few decades later, William Morrison from Iowa created the first successful electric vehicle in the US – a model that looked similar to the old-fashioned carriages. By the end of the 19th century, electric cars became successful (particularly in cities), being sometimes preferred over steam or gas-powered vehicles, as they emitted less pollutants and were quieter. In the early 20th century, electric cars accounted for about one third of the number of cars in circulation in the US. However, with the invention of Ford’s gas-powered Model T car – more affordable and more powerful – sales of electric and hybrid cars declined.
But since a few years, the electric car is taking another go at it, this time with better, more reliable engine technology. The new electric car industry, having learned from the mistakes of the past, now has technology on its side. Following the invention of the lithium-ion batteries, the electric car saw its second chance emerge.
A case in point for the revival of the electric car is ‘Tesla Inc.’, founded in 2003. The first tesla was delivered to the market in 2008, having lithium-ion battery cells and being able to last for longer journeys, per charge, than any other electric car before it. With continued, ceaseless improvements being made to these cars, the technology improved and so did the sales, leading the company to be ranked 8th among global carmakers in 2017.
Tesla proves that the electric car is gaining traction. Stock prices show that Tesla has overtaken giants of the car industry like Ford and Fiat. With electric cars providing a more environmentally friendly, sustainable and efficient vehicle, it is no longer a competitor to fuel cars, it is the clear champion. Other automotive brands, like ‘Porsche’ and ‘Audi’ have noticed the re-emergence of the electric car and, they too are developing their own electric alternatives.
Electric cars will lower carbon emissions, reducing damage to the ozone layer and reducing smog. Ultimately, bettering our planet and public health. But there are some challenges to it. For example, the sourcing of critical materials for the vehicles like lithium and cobalt, and the carbon extensive process of production, which calls the electric car’s sustainability into question. However, through further developments, these challenges are likely to reduce. Another barrier to the adoption of electric cars is its high price: to date, these models remain unaffordable for many households.
Changes in infrastructure will also have to be made to accommodate the electric car: more charging stations, changes in the electric grid, etc. But, in return, it promises less strain on our planet.
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