Can Electric Cars Be Revived?

The plug-in hybrid could provide most all of the benefits of the electric car with few of it disadvantages. Pictured is 1912 Detroit Electric.

Published: 19-Jul-2006

Will electric vehicles ever become a serious contender in the automotive market? EV enthusiasts and environmentalists say yes. Much of the automotive industry has serious doubts. EVs, around from the very beginning of the auto age, have only been even reasonably successful in small niche markets.
The reasons for lack of interest are pretty much the same as almost a century ago, limited range, long recharge times and high cost. The millions automakers invested in the latest batch of electric vehicles like General Motors Impact, Ford's Ranger RV and Toyota RAV4-EV didn't go for naught. Much of technology, and especially, battery technology, was useful in the now how popular hybrids.

By the late 1890s, electric vehicles were quite well developed, at least in comparison to horseless carriages powered by internal combustion engines and steam. While gasoline fueled vehicles were still plodding along at a horse-like pace, electric ones were setting serious speed records. Camille Jenatzy of Belgium and his bullet-like "La Jamais Contente" achieved a record speed of 106 km/h (about 66 mph) in 1899, the first car to top the 100 km/h mark. Electric cars could travel upwards of 40 miles between charges. The early gasoline cars had to stop more frequently to add water for engine cooling.

Steam cars needed water, as well as, fuel frequently. By 1900, the Electric Vehicle Co. had put hundreds of its electric Hansom cabs, designed like the horse-drawn ones, on New York City streets.


Cleaner cars were the focus of the 2005 Tokyo Auto show, but for this reporter, the Eliica -- pictured below -- was the highlight.

Eight-wheeled, all electric Eliica may be build in small numbers, say designers.

The wheel robots, complete with their own suspension, remove the need for a drive shaft and even the engine block, freeing up designers to make new use of the space in the car.


blog comments powered by Disqus