Though seen as the height of modernity and present-day eco-consciousness, the first electric cars actually came to market in the late 19th century. They were developed around the same time as combustible engine cars, ones that used gasoline or other kinds of igniting fuel. Electric cars have always been considered cleaner alternative, since they do not give off fuel emissions, and in the late 1800s and early 1900s, they were the more popular choice for consumers. Some electric cars are even reported to have run better than the gasoline cars of the time.
Then gasoline cars began to be produced on a massive level, most notably by Henry Ford, driving their prices down considerably. Gasoline cars could also be refueled much faster than the battery operated electric cars, which needed to be recharged. Most homes were seeing electric power by this time but charging would still take several hours, and it was much less convenient than the few minutes it took to refuel with gasoline. Some electric car manufacturers responded by instituting battery exchange stations, where drivers could have a used battery replaced with a fresh one but ultimately gasoline won out. More petroleum, which was used to make gasoline, was being discovered all over the world, which drove down fuel prices. Gasoline cars were both cheaper to buy and cheaper to refuel. By the 1930s, electric cars were essentially gone from the consumer market.
Gasoline had won the war for the automobile industry, and for the next 30 years, it held a monopoly on automobiles, but then came the environmental movements of the 1960s and gasoline crises in the 1970s and 1980s. People around the world began to look for alternatives to fossil fuels, and the idea of electric cars saw resurgence.
The state of California is notable for being on the forefront of the revival in interest of the electric car. At the beginning of the 1990s, the government of California pushed for cleaner running vehicles. California is one of the states most bogged down by smog because of the sheer number of cars on the road in large cities like Los Angeles. Unfortunately, at this same time consumers all across America saw an increase in affinity for trucks, sports utility (SUV) and other large vehicles. Electric car manufacturing at this time was still unpopular, despite environmental concerns.
The interest in lower emission vehicles did not die out however, and by the late 1990s into the early 2000s, we saw a rise in hybrid vehicles. Energy crises and environmental movements propelled the hybrid market, with the Toyota Prius leading the way as the most recognizable and successful hybrid vehicle for its time. Hybrids solve the problem of electronic range, by also allowing cars to use gasoline when the electric charge runs out. The use of electricity, however, results in lower fuel use.
The movement for lowered fuel emissions continues, with U.S. states and governments all around the world pushing for increased emission standards. Customers are also demanding cleaner running vehicles to save on rising fuels costs and to reduce pollution. Ford now makes a car called the Tesla. This car, which was named for electricity pioneer Nikola Tesla, seeks to be a long range, fully electric vehicle. Other companies like Mitsubishi, Nissan and Chevrolet have followed suit and developed their own popular brands, with names like Leaf and Volt that either make you think about the environment or the power of electricity itself. It is safe to say that electricity is the future for automobiles, which hopefully means cleaner, more cost effective cars for consumers.
Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Ani is a fan of exploring new places through photography and the local cuisine. After earning her BFA in photography from NYU and gaining communications experience at International Planned Parenthood Federation, she joined InterExchange in 2012, and worked as the Marketing Producer until 2016.