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The Evolution of the Electric Vehicle

The Past

Electric Vehicles have long been fantasized for more than a century – ranging from old school movies portraying the future to current-day innovations working to have the longest mileage range for the lowest price tag. Developed in 1894, Philadelphians Henry Morris and Pedro Salom modified a technology based on electric streetcars and boats to create an electric carriage, also known as the Hanson Cabs, to compete with the popular horse-drawn vehicle of its time. With the staggering battery weight of 1600 pounds and lack of aerodynamics, the “electric vehicle” had a range of 25 miles with a maximum speed of 20 mph – revolutionary for its time. With battery charge becoming one of the largest draw backs, developers Morris and Salmon quickly devised a plan to convert an ice arena in New York into a battery-swapping station where new fully charged batteries replaced the now useless battery. Having expanded too quickly alongside the inability to meet demand among their effective gas-fueled competitor, the once-thriving business crumbled at the start of the 20th century.

The Now

In late 2008 a once unknown car company, Tesla, unveiled a vehicle that would soon revolutionize the car industry – the Roadster. With its sleek, sports-like appearance, perfect for a day at the beach, and a battery range of over 600 miles, the world was surely stunned. The problem? The vehicle came priced at a staggering $100,000 – surely not a vehicle most of the population could afford. With safety concerns alongside a declining demand, the Tesla Roadster was discontinued to focus on the now best sold and family-friendly Tesla, the Model S. An electric vehicle that grasped the world’s attention at a staggering $30,000 price point was none other than the Nissan Leaf. Seating a family of four comfortably, although providing a mere range of 150 miles fully charged, the Nissan Leaf swept the world with more than half a million vehicles sold by December of 2020. While the Tesla Roadster was short-lived and Nissan Leaf underperformed, it proved to society the ability to outperform traditional combustion vehicles while producing zero emissions – and so the electric vehicle era began.

But why are electric vehicles in such high demand in comparison to their diversified cousin, the gas-fueled vehicle? According to Sustainable Vehicle Technologies article by Rennacs, “Since the release of the first electric vehicles, vehicle makers from all around the world have refined their manufacturing processes and improved on existing technology. The results of these refinements are electric vehicles that can travel hundreds of miles off one charge. The performance of these vehicles has significantly improved, with vehicles such as Tesla’s Model S being able to overtake traditional sports cars.”

Author James Karen goes on to explain since the market continues to become saturated with electric vehicles, both new and used, the public continues to have a wider accessibility to what were once a token for the wealthy – “Electric vehicles are becoming cheaper, making them more accessible to the public. As well as being incredibly cheap to run, electric vehicles are becoming more widely produced, resulting in a drop in price. Due to electric vehicles being available for a while, buying a second-hand electric vehicle is also becoming much cheaper. In the next decade, we will see a huge increase in the number of electric cars on our roads. Factors such as government support, emerging technology and a changing public opinion are resulting in many drivers choosing to make the switch over to clean, fully-electric vehicles.”

With a staggering increase in electric vehicles surpassing 1.3 million in the United States in 2020, the question stands firm – where did this evolution begin and where do we see this going? While the United States consists of roughly 11% of the worldwide average of electric vehicles, the demand for a zero-emission and cost-effective vehicle remains a high demand.

The Future

Because the building blocks of the past have paved a path for the future, major car manufacturers have promised the release of additional electric vehicles from now to as early as 2025. General Motors, for example, made a commitment to “30 new global electric vehicles by 2025. We are aggressively going after every aspect of what it takes to put everyone in an EV because we need millions of EVs on the road to make a meaningful impact toward building a zero-emissions future. GM is positioned to design, engineer, and produce EVs for every style and price point, and we are rapidly building a competitive advantage in batteries, software, vehicle integration, manufacturing, and customer experience.” Thanks to technological advancements, GM car batteries for example will be dramatically less expensive than batteries on the road today by utilizing advancements such as the Ultium Battery – “Ultium represents a milestone achievement in electrification, with battery pack costs nearly 40 percent lower than those in the Chevrolet Bolt EV. GM projects that second-generation Ultium packs will cost nearly 60 percent less than the batteries used today. Its versatile platform provides the building blocks for everything from mass market to high-performance vehicles – all from a single, common cell in most markets and set of interchangeable propulsion components. Ultium battery cells will be manufactured in Lordstown, Ohio as part of our joint venture with LG Energy Solution.” Among General Motors speculating a drastic 60% reduction in battery costs attributed to the birth of an expensive electric Vehicle, numerous sources claim the price of batteries will plummet by 2025 – leaving Electric Vehicles less expensive to produce and maintain than their gas-fueled competitors.

Electric Vehicles have long been idolized for their futuristic attributes, cost-effective alternative for transportation, as well as their overall reduction towards the world’s carbon footprint. While flying cars may be difficult to predict within the foreseeable future, one thing is certain – affordable electric vehicles are on the horizon.



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