All Electric Car

The all electric car, or battery electric car, is the subject of a lot of interest and of primary interest here at FutureCars. Most people think of this as new, high technology. The reality is, electric cars have been around for more than a century.

The first documented electric car was built in the 1830s in Scotland, but the idea didn't really flourish until 1865 when the lead-acid battery was invented, allowing the all electric car to be recharged.

By the turn of the century, there were more electric cars on the road than there were petroleum-fueled vehicles. This changed, of course, and the hey-day of the electric car ended soon after. Many think it is going to return soon.

Who Killed the Electric Car?

A film by this title explored the General Motors EV1 electric car, which was produced in limited numbers in the 1980s and 90s. Those cars had their flaws and were not likely to become consumer mainstream, but the all electric car had been around much earlier than that - and died out.

So who did kill the electric car originally? It's hard to pinpoint a single person, of course, since the real EV killer was the market itself. Players like Thomas Edison, Cadillac, and Henry Ford all played a role in making the electric car obsolete in the early part of the 1900s.

Edison patented his alkaline battery, which was well-suited to power storage and stability (the lead-acid batteries before this were prone to noxious leaks and even bursting when overcharged), but not well-suited to high-volume output. In other words, it was perfect for non-electric car power storage.

At about the same time, Cadillac marketed the electric starter for gasoline and diesel engines. This eliminated one of the biggest problems associated with petroleum-fueled vehicles: the crank start.

Also at that time, Henry Ford began producing the Model T, which was like the Volkswagen Beetle of the 1900s. It was inexpensive, produced in large volume, and created a boom in the gasoline production industry.

With these three things came cars with better range and longer life-spans (not to mention easier fueling) than electrics. The all electric car market died quickly.

Electric Cars Today

Today's electric car market is small and still very much in the fledgeling stages. The only production all electric vehicle is the Nissan Leaf, which will be joined in the next couple of years by the Ford Focus Electric, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV (and variants), and possibly others.

The focus of today's electrification has been on hybrid technology, mixing electric and petroleum drive trains.

Many believe that the electric car is poised to dominate the market in coming years. Others aren't so sure.

For more on how electric cars work, visit this link.

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