The early electric car designs were simple and very reliable, much more reliable than the ICE-powered cars of the time:
✓ Electric cars: They don't require starting an engine. As soon as electricity is applied to the electric motor, the car goes (hopefully). When more electricity is applied, the car goes faster. You don't need a transmission because electric motors can operate over a wide range of speeds with equal effectiveness. Brakes and steering are the same for electrics and conventional, and so electrics, on net, are much simpler and more reliable. (To find out more about how electric cars work, see the section "Basic Operation of an Electric Vehicle," later in this chapter.)
✓ ICEs (internal-combustion engines): These are much fussier. They require a whole host of support equipment like pumps, hoses, alternators, carburetors, and spark plugs, each of which can break and cause the car to fail. Perhaps most restrictive, ICEs can only run optimally over a limited range of conditions, so they require complex transmissions which not only are prone to failure, but also weigh the car down due to their necessarily massive constructions.
In 1900 a majority of the autos in production were electric. For every one internal-combustion engine vehicle, there were ten electric vehicles. Most of the manufacturers of the day built electric cars and it was believed that the
future would be wholly electric. Not a lot of investment money was dedicated to improving gasoline engines simply because electrics make much more sense — except for one big thing: batteries (I know, I repeat myself).
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