Just a short time ago, mass-produced electric vehicles were about as realistic as a science-fiction movie. However, things have caught up, and nearly every major manufacturer has released its version of an all-electric vehicle.
Many people assume that electric vehicles are a new concept. While the mass-production of electric vehicles may be new, the truth is electric vehicles date back as far as the 1800s.
The exact date of the invention of electric cars is unknown. However, historians agree that a series of inventions and breakthroughs in the mid-to-late 1800s put the first electric car on American roads.
In the early portion of the 1800s, several innovators and tradesmen began experimenting with the idea of a vehicle that was powered by a battery. This led to the development of the first small-scale electric vehicles.
Around this same time, an inventor from Britain named Robert Anderson designed an electric carriage. However, it wouldn’t be until the latter half of the 1800s that inventors from France and England would construct some of the first fully functional electric cars.
It wasn’t until 1890 that the first electric car was unveiled by William Morrison. Morrison designed a car that could accommodate six people and had an eye-popping top speed of 14 miles per hour. Okay, so maybe 14 miles per hour isn’t so eye-popping, but that was fairly impressive at the time for what was nothing more than a glorified electric wagon.
However, this crude version of the first electric car started America’s growing obsession with developing a full-scale automobile that was powered by electricity. By the time 1900 rolled around, electric vehicle production was in full swing, and these cars made up about one-third of all cars on the road.
Over the next 10 years, the electric model continued to thrive. However, as Americans continued to flourish and many of the great steel and railroad tycoons secured their fortunes, the newly invented motor automobile – running on steam or gasoline, surpassed the electric models in popularity.
It was Henry Ford’s Model T that arguably dealt a death blow to the electric cars of that era. The average electric roadster had a price tag of almost $1,800, while Ford’s gasoline offering was available for a mere $650.
The final nail in the coffin would be when Charles Kettering invented electric starter, which eliminated the need for hand cranking gas-powered cars. This gave way to an explosion in the sales of combustion engine automobiles.
America would continue its love affair with the idea of mass-produced electric vehicles over the next 100 years. The 1973 Arab Oil Embargo left gas prices at all-time highs, leaving congress seeking alternative options to mitigate America’s dependence on crude oil.
In 1976, the Department of Energy received grants from the federal government for research into more practical electric and hybrid vehicles. Every automaker in America, from small to midsize, began showing a renewed interest in producing an electric car.
However, the prototypes developed during that era had too many drawbacks, and none of the designs ever went full-scale. The gas prices eventually slid back down, and interest in the electric car all but died out.
In 1990, federal and state regulations began to trigger interest in electric vehicles once again. The Clean Air Act Amendment of that year and the 1992 Energy Policy Act, combined with new emissions regulations, created a newfound drive to bring full-scale electric vehicles to the masses.
Chevrolet developed the E1, which garnered a strong following in the green energy space, never went to full commercial production, and Chevy discontinued it in 2001. However, the development of the Prius in 1997 was the turning point for electric vehicles, and its global release in 2000 helped propel electric vehicles into full-scale production.
Finally, in 2006, a company by the name of Tesla Motors began manufacturing luxurious electric vehicles that could travel over 200 miles on a full charge. Since then, Tesla has been considered the leader in the electric vehicle industry. Their unprecedented heights of success never before seen from an electric vehicle manufacturer triggered most of the big names in the automotive industry to ramp up the design and production of their own electric models.
As of today, big names like Ford, Honda, Jeep, Nissan, and other big-league manufacturers have all released their versions of electric cars, trucks, or SUVs.
Aside from the cosmetic elements of electric cars, you’d be hard-pressed to find a significant number of similarities between EVs and standard fuel-propelled vehicles. Electric cars lack engines, spark plugs, radiators, and many other mechanical components that are present in normal cars.
Typically, EVs have a trunk in the front portion of the vehicle where the engine compartment would be. This trunk area wasn’t solely designed with storage in mind – in the event of a head-on collision, the body of the car has more room to fold and absorb the impact from whatever it strikes.
The batteries held in electric vehicles help them run. In reality, the battery isn’t one large unit but instead a pack of smaller lithium-ion modules. These smaller modules are made up of even smaller battery cells that are about the size of a AA battery.
Together, these units link to form an electrical circuit for efficient delivery of maximum power. Since the release of the Prius, battery designs have advanced and continue to advance at a rapid pace. Numerous manufacturing changes have taken place that aims to increase the amount of energy contained and simultaneously lower the cost.
The motor on an EV is what turns the electricity into mechanical energy that propels the vehicle. When electricity is transferred from the battery to a non-moving portion of the motor, a magnetic field is created that turns a moving component known as the rotor.
The rotor’s function is to create moving energy that moves the wheels of the vehicle using only one gear. It’s a fairly straightforward process – the more electricity that’s generated, the faster the revolutions of the rotor become. There is no reason to switch gears in an EV, so the contrast between accelerating and decelerating is incredibly smooth.
Vehicles that rely on fuel only have one engine, while an EV can have several motors, all of which act independently from the others. An EV known as a dual-motor has one motor that solely focuses on stop-and-go situations. Another is dedicated to highway travel at higher speeds.
Electric vehicles can also be manufactured as four-wheel-drive versions. Each wheel can have its own motor, which leads to much higher levels of traction. Incredibly, the tires can even spin in opposite directions, leading to much faster turning.
Some of the other critical components of electric vehicles include:
Understanding how all of the most vital components on an EV operate should be much easier for you to weigh the pros and cons of these cars. This allows you to make an informed decision regarding whether you’d like to become an EV owner.
Now that you have a fairly decent background of how electric vehicles operate let’s weigh the pros and cons of owning one of these cars.
A standard fuel-powered vehicle that gets an average of 22mpg emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide every year. There is no competition when you compare this statistic with an EV, which emits zero carbon dioxide.
Beyond this, when the electric vehicle is charged with renewable electricity, the carbon footprint drops to an even smaller number. Regardless of the negative comments critics have regarding the carbon cost of producing EV batteries, they still produce far less carbon dioxide on average over their entire lifespan.
In comparison, electricity is much more cost-efficient than fuel. According to studies, driving an electric vehicle instead of a standard fuel-burner saves you anywhere from $600-$800 per year. Your location and the price you pay for electricity weigh heavily on the final amount you can save.
When you compare them to gas-powered vehicles, EVs have a much lower number of moving components. Naturally, fewer moving parts mean a lower number of components that have a chance to break down and need replacing. Another huge money-saver is the fact that there’s no need for oil changes to an EV.
EVs are far more energy-efficient than their fuel-burning counterparts. The efficiency in this scenario is measured as the percentage of energy required to drive the vehicle in comparison to the level of energy produced by fuel burn-off. The percentage rating of a standard vehicle is only around 15%, while EVs are rated at 70.
One of the primary benefits of an EV is the convenience of charging the battery at home. However, if you don’t have a charging station installed at your home and commonly commute beyond your car’s range, this advantage can quickly turn into a disadvantage. More charging stations are surfacing at a steady pace, which continues to eliminate this pitfall for owners who don’t own one of their own.
It’s important to be realistic regarding the disadvantages of owning an electric vehicle if you’re seriously considering owning one.
The number of charging stations pales compared to the number of gas stations that currently exist. If you don’t have your own charging station installed at home, this could become a serious headache. However, as the number of electric vehicle owners continues to rise, more and more charging stations will continue to surface.
Filling up at a gas station takes all of five minutes most of the time. Alternatively, charging your electric vehicle can take several hours to reach a full level. Specific times vary depending on the manufacturer. However, newer chargers can fill the battery up to 80% in about a half-hour.
The range of EVs has increased significantly in the last few years. Electric cars commonly operate at ranges over 200 miles. The Tesla Model S can travel an incredible 387 or 520 miles. Standard cars hover somewhere around a 400-mile range on a full tank. If you commonly drive long distances, this is something you’re going to need to prepare yourself for.
Electric cars might cost less to operate than fuel-burning vehicles; this comes at a tradeoff for a higher price tag. When you compare two of the same models, with one being a fuel-burner and the other an EV, the price difference is around $10,000.
The batteries for an EV are incredibly expensive. In fact, the high price of these batteries is the primary reason for the significant gap when it comes to standard vehicles and EVs. However, having to replace the battery isn’t a common problem in these vehicles.
Are electric cars better vehicles than their gas-powered counterparts? For many people, the answer is yes. However, some people may not agree. This is a matter of personal opinion and comes down to an individual’s requirements and situation.
Electric vehicles have advantages over fuel-burning cars, such as lower repair and operating costs throughout the life of the car, charging at home, and lowering your carbon footprint.