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Electric Cars: How far have we actually come?


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Are the days of petrol and diesel cars numbered? By 2040 sales bans are expected to be set out on new petrol and diesel cars and the pressure is on for electric cars to take their place. How far have electric cars come though? Are they ready to fill the void that would be created by an absence of traditional cars? 

Traditional car manufacturers such as Volkswagen and General Motors are investing huge sums of money into electric cars, not to mention Elon Musk's Tesla which has developed a reputation for being at the forefront of electronic automotive technologies. Yet, Electric vehicles are nothing new, with early contraptions preceding the birth of the car. 

The invention of the first model electric vehicle is attributed to various people, many attribute it to Ányos Jedlik, a Hungarian national, whom in 1828 invented an early electric motor which powered a model.

In 1837 a Scottish chemist called Robert Davidson, created the first electric locomotive, powered by Galvanic cells called Galvani. It was seven tonnes and was able to haul 6.1 kilograms at a speed of 6.4 kilometres per hour for a distance of 2.4 kilometres. However it was not widely popular due to its limited power, leading it to be destroyed by railway workers who saw it as a threat to their security of employment.

Similarly, Robert Anderson, another Scot, invented a crude electrical carriage during the same period, yet again it was not practical. These electric locomotives represent the earliest steps towards electric cars. 

It was not until the late 1800s and early 1900s that the electric car really took shape. Interestingly between 1899 and 1900 electric cars outsold all other types of cars according to the American census.

People favoured electric vehicles as they did not smell or vibrate like petrol powered machines, and no gear changes were required. Yet by 1935 electric cars were no longer held in the same regard with the internal combustion engine dominating, which it has done ever since.

Production of electric cars had peaked in 1912, by this time Henry Ford had harnessed the ability to mass produce internal-combustion engines making gas-powered cars considerably cheaper than electric. 

It was not until the 1970s that interest in electric cars re-emerged, and this was mainly due to increasing environmental pressures, not too dissimilar to todays. The OPEC oil crisis of 1973 led to skyrocketing petrol prices, and thus sparked an interest in alternatives. Yet the developments were still limited, the best selling electric car was the Sebring Citicar, which had a top speed of 44mph and a range of 50 to 60 miles. Yet the limited range and top speed meant it was again not widely popular and the concept did not catch on for consumers. This led to another lull in the electric car industry.

This lull ended in the 1990s where further regulations once again pushed car manufacturers to revisit electric vehicles. In 1996 General motors produced the EV-1 yet it was only available to people in certain US states and could only be leased. The Car boasted range of about 100 miles on a single charge yet again it was not profitable and GM decided to recall the cars and destroy them.

Much to the annoyance of motoring enthusiasts it was the Toyota Prius which went into production in 2000 that helped to grow real interest in fuel-efficient and electric cars. The Prius was the first-mass produced hybrid-electric car and by January 2017 Toyota had sold more than 6 million worldwide.

In recent years, Tesla has paved the way for an all-electric automotive future making revolutionary steps under the leadership of Elon Musk.

In 2011 it produced the Tesla Roadster which had a range over 240 miles per charge making it more appealing to consumers and by 2012 it had began delivery of its Model S which had an even further range of 265 miles per charge. In 2016 Tesla unveiled their first budget car with price starting at $35,000 with a range of 215 miles marking a huge advancement from what originally was regarded as being an electric car.

The idea of the market being dominated by electric cars as opposed to the traditional combustion engine is now more feasible than ever. In an increasingly environmentally conscious society, the days of petrol and diesel car seem numbered.

Huge advancements have been made in recent years, namely by Nissan and Tesla. The wide us electric car once something of the future, is now very much a reality, a reality which should be extremely beneficial for the future of our planet.

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