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2006 Electric Car Has Been Around For More Than A Century – by Frank Vanderlugt

0 Comments 25 June 2010

The idea of having an electric car makes so much sense. Imagine workers in a large, contained industrial area using electric cars to transport material and employees from one area to the next. At the end of the run they would simply plug the car in and charge it back up. Imagine the same electric car on college campuses across the country. Students would drive from class to class and then back to their dorm or apartment. As part of their regular routine, they would plug in their electric car for a recharge.

Imagine too these quiet electric cars in planned communities transporting residents to the golf course, to the club house or around the neighborhood to visit with friends. The employees, the students, the residents would be able to drive day after day without the need for gasoline. The electric cars would operate quietly without emitting polluting toxic fumes. The area would be cleaner and quieter. This has to be a radical new idea, right?

Actually the electric car has been around in one form or another since 1832 when the Scotsman Robert Anderson invented a rather crude carriage that was powered by battery cells that were not rechargeable. Not practical for long-term use, but it was the beginning of a revolutionary concept.

Shortly after Anderson’s success, an American, Thomas Davenport, build a practical electric engine for a small train. The effort was truly global and the next step came from a French scientist, Gaston Plante, who invented the rechargeable storage battery. In 1881 the battery was improved and became the same basic lead-acid battery that is still used in today’s cars.

Electric cars were all the scientific rage in the 1890s. The decade began with William Morrison building the very first successful electric auto in Iowa in 1891. He was followed by Thomas Edison in 1893. By 1897 the Pope Manufacturing Company took the concept big time with the first electric taxis in New York City. At the end of the decade, electric cars were well accepted. Approximately one-third of the cars being made were electric and the brightest minds in the industry were working on ways to improve the battery.

However, soon after, all of that changed drastically. In 1908 Henry Ford rocked the auto world with the mass-production of the gasoline-powered Model T. At first these Model Ts were difficult to start because they required a hand crank starter. In 1912 the electric car starter was invented and the gasoline-powered car was off and running at full speed.

At the time everything seemed to support the gasoline-powered car. They could travel farther than the electric car. They had better horsepower and of course gasoline was in abundant supply from American sources. So the electric car faded from the scene.

It would be more than 40 years later before the public was again ready to even think about electric cars as a viable source of transportation. In the 1970s the price of oil was rising at alarming rates and the political turmoil in the Middle East caused American to once again look inward for answers.

Some attempts were made in the 1970s but with limited commercial awareness. These electric car models could not compete with the long-range and power that drivers had come to demand of their cars. By 2006 a few electric cars and a few hybrid models were introduced. The rising gas prices that year helped to spur public attention. The most commercially successful company has been Toyota with their Prius line.

It isn’t that consumers don’t recognize the need for alternatives to high-priced, volatile foreign oil and gas; they have simply become too accustom to the power and convenience of gasoline-powered cars and trucks. We are a very mobile society and very unwilling to compromise on that in the ways that an electric car would involve.

frank j vanderlugt owns and operates http://www.electric-car-2007.com Electric Car

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