Recognizing the need to delay and halt the effects of climate change, countries, companies, and people all over the world have pledged to reduce their carbon emissions. Part of these emission-cutting efforts include the promotion and use of electric cars as alternatives to traditional gas-powered vehicles.
Unfortunately, the goal of all-electric traffic may be a long way off. As of 2015, only 1.26 million of these vehicles are used. Despite this, the vehicles are gaining in popularity and may be worth looking into the next time you find yourself car shopping.
History of The Electric Car
Although the vehicle option has only risen in acceptance over the past decade, the electric car can trace its beginnings back to the 19th century.
The 1800s: In 1835, Thomas Davenport built a small locomotive which would become the first practical electric car. These advancements were hinged on the belief that electricity was the future of transport. Despite the interest, the first successful electric car in the United States would not be invented until 1891.
The early 1900s: The new century saw the continued popularity of electric vehicles with around twenty-eight percent of cars produced in the country being powered by electricity. However, this would halt in the 1920s when people began to prefer vehicles that would reliably allow for longer drives.
The mid-1900s: In the 1970s, the first hybrid car was built by Victor Wouk based on a 1972 Buick Skylark.
The 1990s: The Toyota Prius, which was the first commercially-available and mass-produced hybrid car, was launched in Japan in 1997. Its success would lead to other car companies following suit and creating all-electric cars.
The 2000s: Tesla makes history with the unveiling of the Tesla Roadster in 2006 due to its improved driving distance and legal-to-drive status. In the following years, the government allocated more than two-billion dollars to fund the development of electric vehicles.
- PBS: Timeline: History of the electric car
- Stanford University: History of electric vehicles
- Union of Concerned Scientists: What are electric cars?
Today’s Electric Cars
Electric cars have steadily gained popularity since Tesla first launched their models. Currently, it is estimated that there are around two dozen electric and hybrid vehicles available on the market. Manufacturers are looking to release seventy more models over the next five years.
Most of these cars fall under two categories: all-electric cars and plug-in hybrids. Models in the first category exclusively run on electricity, while those in the latter are designed to run a distance using electricity but switch to a gas or hybrid mode for longer distances. These cars are sold starting at about $21,000 with high-performance models selling for as much as $125,000.
- Consumer Reports: Electric cars 101: The answers to all your EV questions
- Harvard University: Electric vehicles and hybrids: Where are we now?
The Future of Electric Cars
Manufacturers and research engineers are finding ways to improve and develop both electric cars and the road infrastructure that would accommodate them. For example, engineers at Colorado University are working to find ways to allow electric cars to charge while on the road without having to plug in. This would address the current driving distance limitation that most electric vehicle models still have.
Meanwhile, other research shows that it is dealers and distributors who will play a big role in encouraging electric car sales in the future.
- University of Colorado, Boulder: Future electric cars could recharge wirelessly while you drive
- UC Davis: The future of electric vehicles part 1: Car dealers hold the key
- Columbia University: Will electric vehicles take over the world?
Pros and Cons of an Electric Car vs. Gas Powered Car
To help weigh your options, consider the advantages of each type of car before making your decision.
Why choose electric over gas powered
Cheaper to power: In the long run, powering an electric car will be cheaper than fueling a gas-powered car. Researchers suggest that it would only take a few cents to fully recharge an electric car in the future. This might be a better choice financially, as gas prices tend to be volatile.
Tax incentives: The government gives electric and hybrid car owners a federal tax credit amounting to as much as $7,500 depending on which state you are in.
Low maintenance costs: Compared to gas-powered cars, electric cars may be easier to maintain. Running on electricity, a fully electric car will not require oil changes.
Helping the planet: By purchasing and using electric cars, you are helping to reduce the emission of air pollution and supporting the development of renewable energy.
Why choose gas powered over electric
More fueling options: You will rarely have to worry about running out of fuel because gas stations are found everywhere.
More range: Limited driving distance is still a weakness of electric cars. Although there are models which can now go for long distances, these cars usually retail for over $100,000, which puts it out of the reach of the average car buyer.
Cheaper price tag: Although electric cars may cost less when it comes to fuel, there is still the fact that gas-powered cars tend to be much cheaper when new as well as used.
- Cool Green Science: Electric vs. gasoline cars
- Idaho National Laboratory: Comparing energy costs per mile for electric and gasoline-fueled vehicles
- Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy: Saving on fuel and vehicle costs
Famous Quotes About Electric Cars
One of the most popular proponents for electric cars is engineer and Tesla CEO, Elon Musk. See what he has to say about the topic, and you might just be convinced to finally go electric.
“In order to have clean air in cities, you have to go electric.”
“We will not stop until every car on the road is electric.”
“As of 2016, the number of American car companies that haven’t gone bankrupt is a grand total of two: Ford and Tesla.”
Other Environmentally Friendly Cars
While electric cars are the most popular kind of environmentally friendly vehicles, there are other types of alternative vehicles being developed.
Biodiesel cars: The great thing about using biodiesel as fuel is that regular gas-powered cars can be converted to accommodate it. Biodiesel is believed to be better than fossil fuel because it is made of animal fats and vegetable oils which do not produce as many harmful pollutants.
Ethanol cars: These work similarly to biodiesel cars except for the fact that they use ethanol instead. This biofuel is derived from plant sources such as corn, thus making it a renewable type of fuel.