New to electric cars?

Don’t worry. They’re not as complicated as they may at first appear. Actually, they’re more simple than you may realise and have far fewer moving parts than your average petrol or diesel car. So there’s really no reason to be afraid.

At the start of the automotive revolution in the late 1890’s, a defining battle similar to that of VHS versus Betamax or HD-DVD versus BluRay took place.  Electric cars fought side by side against internal combustion engined vehicles to become the first choice to power the way forward for mankind.

Electric cars enjoyed notable successes including the first vehicle to achieve a speed of over 62mph (100kmh) in the all electric La Jamais Contente in 1899 by the Belgian Camille Jenatzy.  However, overriding factors still familiar today meant that fossil-fuel won the overall battle for adoption, with thanks to their being more convenient to refuel and thanks to the likes of Henry Ford who mass produced the Ford Model T; thus lowering the overall purchase price for petrol engined cars.

Though there have been several attempts over the last 100 years to revive the initial successes enjoyed by electric cars in the 1890’s and early 20th century, they have mostly been one offs, concept cars and individual engineering projects.

In recent years, the ever expanding field of electronics has played an important role in the development of the story.  The advent of purely electronic devices, rather than mechanical, has meant we’re more accepting of machines with no moving parts and only powered by electricity. This means we are better conditioned for ownership and an understanding of electric vehicles than we were at the turn of the 20th century.  The simplicity and efficiency of electric cars is at the very height of automotive engineering and as a result, they make piston engines appear dated and old fashioned.

Looking at global industry, changes begin to appear which often prove to be the way the public domain eventually follows.  For example, the history of trains has gone from the awe inspiring days of steam, driven by hulking great engines powered by a cacophony of coal, pressure and dirt to the modern days of electric driven trains; smooth, clean and very much more efficient.

The same has happened with communications; the days of analogue devices has largely been replaced by a clearer and more advanced digital system.  It is only a matter of time then, that internal combustion powered vehicles will meet the same fate as that of steam trains and an analogue age; to be replaced by digital efficiency and powered by electricity.

The last ten years has seen a rise in technological advances unmatched in any previous generation.  The popularity of mobile communications has pushed for better battery technology which is having an effect on electric cars too.  New chemicals are being harnessed to create ever increasing capacities and ever faster recharge times.  Announcements of increasing fuel prices and an uncertain future of fossil fuel supply, not to mention political agendas and an ever more environmentally conscious populous all contribute to a larger picture where electric cars make sense.

Now, more than ever, electric vehicles are coming into the foray.  They have become an almost obvious answer to the current mindset of the world in general.  Electric powered vehicles now have the range they lacked at the advent of the motorcar, when they lost the battle with fossil fuel driven machines, but they never lacked the pace to keep up.  They have the reliability and the efficiency to succeed and they are only just getting started.  The rebirth of the electric car is taking place, and it’s taking place now.

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Autovolt is the UK's leading consumer magazine dedicated to electric and hybrid vehicles. We cover electric cars, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, fuel cell vehicles and much more.