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26 Jul 2022

Evolution of Electric Vehicles - A Historical Perspective

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Skill-Lync

                                    

 

The evolution of electric vehicles is not a recent phenomenon. In fact, the oldest prototypes of electric vehicles were invented over 200 years ago. The rise of industries and related technologies during the industrial revolution paved the way for new forms of transport. The inventions of petrol, steam, and electrical versions of vehicles were introduced in the market among which, the most preferred ones were steam engines.

 

Pioneers in the Evolution of Electric Vehicles

 

In the late 1700s, the steam tricycle took its true form by Nicholas Joseph Cugnot and in the late 1800s, the world’s first automobile was Cugnot’s Dampfwagen.

 

Cugnot’s Dampfwagen

 

 

Though the first internal combustion engine fuelled with hydrogen was introduced by Francois Isaac de Rivaz in 1807-08, the widely accepted internal combustion engine powered with gasoline arrived only in 1870 through Siegfried Marcus’ invention. 

In 1862, Nikolaus Otto developed a four-stroke engine and a diesel engine by Rudolf Diesel in 1893. Later, the Ford Model T was introduced into the market in 1896 by Karl Benz. 

The first crude electric vehicle was built in 1832 by Robert Anderson and it was the first crude electric carriage. However, the practical design of the vehicle started only in the 1870s.

 

 

The first electric car found attractive sales in the cities, especially among women. Thomas Parker is accredited for inventing the first practical electric car in 1884 and in 1888, another brand “Flocken Electrowagen”  was introduced. Using early electric cars on bad roads in rural areas was tricky, therefore most of their sales were largely in the cities. With the entry of Porsche Pf in 1898 by Ferdinand Porsche, the popularity of these cars soared. And, by the year 1912 electric vehicles accounted for ⅓ of the vehicles on US roads.

The time period also saw ardent research work being done by Thomas Edison along with Henry Ford to explore low-cost options for electric cars in 1914. During the year 1896, due to several factors like improvement of roads, extraction and availability of more crude oil, etc., there was a decline in the adoption of electric cars and a boom in combustion engine vehicles.

 

Evolution of the First Electric Car

 

In 1828, Hungarian inventor Anyos Jedlik developed the initial prototypes for electric motors. Professor Sibrandus Stratingh took an interest in the development of electric cars in 1834. Following this, Thomas Davenport was responsible for the release of another small electric vehicle. Later in 1859, the lead-acid battery was developed by a French physicist, Guston Plante. The increased capacity of the battery was introduced which led to the manufacturing of batteries on a large scale in 1881 by Camille Alphonse Faure.

In 1867, Franz Kravogl, an Austrian inventor displayed the prototype of his electric car at the world exhibition in Paris. In 1881, Gustave Trouve developed the three-wheeled automobile which was a key invention on the road to the full electronic car.

Another invention in 1884, by Thomas Parker, sparked interest in London with a specially-designed electric car using rechargeable high-capacity batteries. Then came the first electric automobile “The Electrobat”, developed by mechanical engineer, Henry G.Morris and chemist, Pedro.G.Salmon in 1894 in Philadelphia.

William Morrison of Iowa, US developed a six-passenger electric car (Wagon) with a mileage of 23km/hr. Therefore, this period of the late 1890s and the early 20th century is considered the ‘Golden Age’ for EV technology.

In 1897, Electric battery-powered taxis were made available by Walter C.Bersey in London. Despite the hold over gasoline cars, because of the lack of the right infrastructure, the adoption levels by consumers were very low. This ushered in the decline of electric vehicles in the 20th century.

Eventually, the cheap and ready availability of oil across the world made people lose interest in EVs. Despite the need for manual effort and concerns with exhaust, gasoline-powered vehicles dominated the vehicle due to their cost-efficiency.

 

Electric Vehicles Return with a Bang

 

 

The automobile industry started showing interest in EVs again, after the new environmental regulations in 1990-92. As far as the evolution of electric vehicles in India is concerned, the first Indian EV “Love Bird”, was a two-seater electric car with four automatic transmissions and a reverse gearbox designed and created by the Eddy Electric series. It was first unveiled at Auto Expo in Delhi in the year 1993.

In the year 1996, the first breakthrough came when the first mass-produced electric hybrid vehicle was developed in Japan, the Toyota Prius. During the year 1999, automotive manufacturers started increasing their research spending and infrastructure to manufacture better electric vehicles. 

Tesla, launched in 2006, claimed to manufacture luxury EVs that can run at a speed of more than 200 mph. Tesla changed the landscape of the whole automobile industry, forever. General Motors released the Chevy Volt in 2006 and it became the first commercial plug-in hybrid model. It used a battery made by the energy department of the US. Nissan also released the LEAF, an all-electric car in December of that year which went on to become the world’s first mass-market all-electric vehicle.  

As the battery is the most expensive part of EV automotive manufacturers overcame this, through relentless research, trials and innovations, This reduced the price of the batteries reduced by 50% making it affordable for people to buy electric vehicles. Research is still going on in each aspect of an EV for better economy and efficiency.

 

A Brief History of The Evolution of Electric Vehicles

 

 

 

 

The way forward for Electric Vehicles

Right from the time of the first-ever electric vehicle, exponential growth in terms of technology and people's attitude towards the environmental impact of cars can be seen. Though the market of electric vehicles is a profitable destination for corporates and start-ups in India, mass adoption is not normal. For the manufacturing of electric vehicles domestically, there are a few obstacles that need to be addressed by the Indian government to facilitate technology disruption. Read this article to understand more about the barriers to EV adoption in India.

Electric vehicle technology is here to stay. It won’t be too long before it becomes the base for the futuristic transport infrastructure that will usher in a new wave of clean and sustainable mobility.


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Navin Baskar


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