The first electric vehicle was built in 1839 by a Robert Anderson. Electric motors are very compact and dense compared to gasoline engines, and they run silently — all good things. The main problem with electric cars is the batteries.
Back in the day, batteries weren't rechargeable. When the batteries ran out, new ones had to be installed. Plus, batteries weigh a lot and are made of noxious chemicals that can cause dangers if used improperly.
Battery technology is still the main limitation of electric-powered vehicles. Despite new high-tech battery technologies, they still weigh a lot and are still made of expensive, potentially dangerous chemicals.
Despite these problems, electric vehicles of all kinds proliferated during the first couple of decades of the 20th century, beating out gasoline-powered autos. The reason for the popularity of early electric cars was that they were much simpler, lighter weight, easier to fix, and safer — attributes that all subsequent versions of the electric car can also claim. Because of these advantages electric cars have always been just around the corner. They probably would've rounded the bend already if not for the darn batteries. Battery technology has been steadily creeping forward, and with the burgeoning concern for the environment, there is even more impetus to develop electric cars. In Chapter 18, I describe the newest electric car technologies. Battery issues aside, while there is still a ways to go, electric cars are now competitive economically and technologically with fuel-driven cars, and they're a lot cleaner to boot.
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