Electric Cars Round

Anderson built what is generally regarded to be the first electric vehicle. Unfortunately for Anderson (and our air quality), battery technology at the time had not advanced to the point of creating a rechargeable battery. The batteries in Anderson's car had to be replaced when they materials into a solution that conducts electricity. Because of a phenomenon known as electrolysis, electrons flow materials into a solution that conducts electricity. Because of a phenomenon known as electrolysis, electrons flow from one material to the other. This flow of electrons is electricity.

were exhausted, meaning the car was impractical for everyday use. It wasn't until the 1860s when Raymond Gaston Plante invented the lead-acid battery that a reliable, rechargeable battery reached common use, and it took further developments by Emile Alphonse Faure to make those batteries suitable for motor vehicles. After that, though, the dam of innovation burst.

Even though Sir David Salomon's 1870 attempt to build a practical electric car was doomed by the weight and poor storage capacity of its batteries, by 1886, battery technology had improved to the point that electric taxicabs were in use in England, and Jack the Ripper may well have taken one to escape one of his grisly murder scenes. Two years later, Immisch & Company built a four-passenger carriage, powered by a one-horsepower motor and 24-cell battery, for the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Meanwhile Magnus Volk of Brighton, England, constructed and tested a three-wheeled electric car.

By the late 1890s, electric vehicles were becoming fairly common, at least in a few large cities. New York boasted a modern fleet of electric cabs, and in London, Walter Bersey designed a taxi for the London Electric Cab Company that featured a three-horsepower electric motor with a range of 50 miles between charges.

Although use of taxis in large urban areas spoke to electric vehicles' major strengths—reliable, silent transport at moderate speeds for short trips—entrepreneurs couldn't help seeing a consumer market for electric vehicles. The Pope Manufacturing Company of Hartford, Connecticut, was the leading light of this trend in the United States. By 1899, it had merged its operations with two other electric car manufacturers, changing its name to the Electric Vehicle Company. Its production numbers rivaled that of Oldsmobile and the Duryea brothers, who were building gasoline-powered cars. In Europe, a name that would become synonymous with performance cars cut his eyeteeth on an electric vehicle. Dr. Ferdinand Porsche's first design was the Lohner Electric Chaise.

Because cross-country journeys by car in those days took on many aspects of an expedition due to the rudimentary nature of inter-city roads, electric vehicles thrived through the first decade-and-a-half of the twentieth century. Woods, Detroit Electric, Waverly, and Baker were all successfully building and marketing electric cars. With closed bodies to keep out chill winds and a simple driving procedure, the electrics were perfect for around-town use, and they were the first choice of female drivers of the era. The fact that they were quiet and didn't belch noxious smoke also gained them adherents.

There also was something sublime about their operation. Using the properties of electromagnetism, electric motors could be very compact, yet very powerful. Because they have relatively few moving parts, they are inherently durable as well. The final bonus is that many of them can, when operated "in reverse," generate electricity, so the kinetic motion of a coasting electric vehicle can be used to charge its storage batteries.

But the batteries! Ah, that was the rub. As a medium of energy storage their performance was (and remains) so-so at best. Throughout their history the problem surrounding batteries has been the same: their worst feature is their weight and mass. They are heavy for the amount of energy they can store, and that issue eventually proved to be the downfall of the electric a

It was an issue, by the way, that was recognized very early. Dr. Porsche's second vehicle design attempted to deal with the shortcomings of battery storage. It was a hybrid vehicle that used an internal combustion engine to power a generator that, in turn, sent current to electric motors in the wheel hubs. The good doctor was not alone. The automotive history of the first decade of the twentieth century is littered with hybrid vehicles that tried to use gasoline and electricity to supplement one another. The Woods Motor Vehicle Company of Chicago had an even stranger method of dealing with the shortcomings of electric vehicle technology. Its Interurban model of 1905 allowed the owner to swap its electric powertrain for a two-cylinder gasoline engine when longer vehicle range was desired. The company claimed this transplant could be done in less than an hour's time, but very few buyers took them up on it.

Potholes

Who killed the electric car? It was not a "who" but a "what," namely its batteries. Up until today, battery technology has prevented us from enjoying practical electric vehicles.

By 1910, overland vehicle durability runs were all the rage, sending electric cars on their way to oblivion. The deathblow came with the invention of the self-starter for the gasoline engine. By eliminating the onerous chore of turning a crank to start the engine, gasoline cars suddenly gained much greater appeal. By the time the self-starter arrived, pioneers such as Ransom Olds, David Dunbar Buick, and Henry Ford had their factories churning out thousands of reasonably affordable gasoline cars, and the cheap, reliable self-starter was icing on the cake. Electric cars wouldn't resurface on the vehicle radar screen until the 1960s.

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Hybrid Cars The Whole Truth Revealed

Hybrid Cars The Whole Truth Revealed

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