With the advent in electric and hybrid vehicles, combustion engine vehicles are continually being phased out, the first electric car was invented by Anyos Jedlik, it had an early electric motor and he created a small model car to show off its operation. In 1834 a blacksmith from Vermont named Thomas Davenport built another contraption that operated on a short closed electrified track to demonstrate the abilities with these new ‘electrified’ vehicles.
On and on further developments were made and by the mid-19th century, an electric vehicle held the land speed record until around 1900! The low speed, short-range and high cost of electric vehicles caused the decline of their use as internal combustion engines made advances from low efficiency to the reliable (although polluting) machines they became.
The first electric car had a 200-mile range which is pretty spectacular although the batteries were non-rechargeable which posed a problem in that complete-swap-outs of the battery packs were required to get new range options.
Even though electric cars and small trucks swayed away from electric to Petroleum and Diesel engines due to a lack of technological application (mainly being battery storage) some niche markets like trains, trams and shunting ‘engines’ remained and evolved onward.
The first electric train was built in 1837 by chemist Robert Stevenson, it was powered by Galvanic battery cells. He later built an even bigger locomotive called Galvani which was exhibited at the Royal Scottish Society Of Arts Exhibition in 1874 – the beast of a machine weighed 7,100 Kg (15652.82 lbs), it had two direct-drive reluctance motor having fixed electromagnets with simple commutators. It could haul a load of some 6,100 kg (13448.2 lbs) at 4 mph for a distance of just 1.5 miles and was subsequently scrapped due to the limited battery storage preventing its further improvements and applications – Railway workers destroyed the machine as they saw it was a treat to their employment security.
Further enhancements were made to not only the electric motors driving the machines but also with internal battery storage, there was a crossover when the use of electrified rails was introduced in Britain in 1840, this created a simpler overall traction engine that was lighter and simpler to operate with lower running costs too – similar patents hit the USA in 1847 and electrified rails (as well as diesel engines) operate to this day across a wide range of sectors from simple passenger movements to haulage across entire continents.
As growing concerns have come to light over environmental pollution due to hydrocarbon-fueled vehicles with their damaging exhaust emissions, general interest in alternative energy sources have grown as well as infrastructure to support the ‘plug-in’ networks. Electric cars and their motors are now very efficient; both the Tesla Model S and Model X utilise Alternative Current (AC) motors with an efficiency of 93 %, after switching to permanent magnet reluctance motors, the efficiency jumped to 96 %.
Passenger transport buses in some major cities utilise a ‘donkey engine’, this is a small diesel power internal combustion engine that generates electricity to drive the motor-hubbed wheels, this cuts with the need for a larger traditional gas-guzzling engine and saves animals, people and trees being polluted so much – little by little any improvement is a massive one.
Not only ground-based vehicles but air-borne systems are constantly being developed (manned or otherwise), the much-acclaimed ‘Solar Impulse 2’ all-electric aeroplane circled the globe in 2016 with 16 legs to the journey that took 23 days, the plane has 17,000 solar panels that operate electric propellors in the day time active flight time as well as storing energy in internal batteries for night fight – for the flight, the plane climbed to 29,000 feet in the day and then glided down to 5,000 feet night to conserve energy, the speed of the flight averaged just 30 mph but faster speeds were achieved with good sunlight and a combined tailwind that further saved energy costs.
Whatever your thought on electrically powered vehicles, they are here to stay and should be welcomed with open arms not only due to an environmental awareness but even with their ‘cool’ factor.
The uptrend for electric vehicles happened in 2010 with a combined sale of electric cars and vans supparsing 1,000,000 units, continued uptrends showed that global sales of light-duty electric as well as hybrid vehichle passed 5,000,000 units in 2018.