The Past, Present and Future

Published by The Bee News

March 28, 2024

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The past, present and the future of the automobile is encapsulated in the EV. From 19th century taxis to Tesla’s innovations, electric vehicles are an integral part of the automotive story. And it is quite likely that they will be the next evolutionary step in automotive technology.

In the 1830s, Scottish inventor Robert Anderson developed one of the first crude electric carriages. In the decades that followed, inventors, eccentrics, entrepreneurs, and visionaries experimented with electric, steam and internal combustion powered vehicles. They envisioned a world no longer dependent on the horse for transportation.

They weren’t alone. By the mid 1890s health officials, scientists and city planners were desperate to find an alternative to the horse. A study conducted in 1895 led to published stories about the manure crisis. At this time in New York City it was estimated that there were at least 150,000 horses in the boroughs. And so the city was challenged to dispose of more than three million pounds of horse manure per day. Then there was the matter of urine, and even horse that died and were left on the street.

Ironically the automobile was viewed as the solution for the pollution. Specifically it was the electric vehicle that was viewed as the solution. And so by 1899, there were more than 100 electric taxis on the streets of New York City. There were also electric busses. And in some northeast cities it was easier to find a charging facility than it was to buy gasoline.

In the first years of the 20th century, the electric vehicle dominated the urban market. But they could not compete as companies began manufacturing more dependable gasoline powered vehicles, and the infrastructure to make them more practical developed. The introduction of the electric starter on the 1912 Cadillac fueled a further decline in electric vehicle sales.

And so development of the electric vehicle, infrastructure and battery technologies languished. Still, companies and individuals continued experimenting with electric vehicles. And battery technology developed for improved reliability of gasoline powered cars, would prove beneficial for the electric vehicle.

The early Edison dry cell batteries gave way to lead-acid and nickel-metal hydride batteries. But it was the advent of lithium-ion batteries in the 1990s that ignited a renaissance for the elctric vehicle. That proved to the foundation for establishment of Tesla Motors in 2003.

This company has played a significant role in fueling the modern EV movement. With the release of the Tesla Roadster in 2008 and subsequent models, Tesla has become synonymous with electric vehicles, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with EV technology and design.

The charging infrastructure for EVs has also undergone significant transformation. From the early days of limited range and lengthy charging times, we now have a growing network of fast-charging stations that enable practical long-distance travel and convenient charging options. This expansion is crucial as the number of EVs on the road continues to rise, necessitating a robust and accessible charging network.

As we look to the future, the continued evolution of EV batteries and charging infrastructure promises to make electric vehicles an even more attractive and viable option for consumers worldwide. With advancements in battery technology and the expansion of charging networks, the dream of a fully electrified transportation system imagined by 19th century visionaries seems closer than ever.

From the 19th century electric taxis to the sleek and sophisticated Teslas of today, EVs have come a long way, and their story is far from over. As we continue to innovate and improve, the road ahead for electric vehicles is bright and full of potential.

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