The surprisingly long history of electric cars - Daniel Sperling and Gil Tal
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However, the first successful American EV is credited to a chemist living in Iowa named William Morrison, who developed (sometime around 1890) a six-passenger automobile that could reach a top speed of 14 miles an hour. Though that might seem slow to 21st century sensibilities, it’s about the same speed as the herd of running bulls at the annual Encierro in Pamplona. Such a vehicle must have been impressive to a 19th century audience—indeed, Morrison’s electric car caught the attention of some of the most famous inventors of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Ferdinand Porsche (founder of the sports car company), Thomas Edison, and even Henry Ford, whose Model T would later quash public interest in EVs, all worked towards creating better, more efficient electric cars.
These early attempts would pave the way for the plug-in EVs of today, which are quickly gaining popularity on a global scale. More accessible modes of charging, such as wireless and mobile power stations, could further encourage investment in electric cars. Companies and research institutions are also developing cheaper and more energy efficient batteries, which might eliminate anxiety over battery range and drive down costs for consumers. For instance, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have discovered the means for creating a lithium-ion battery that eliminates the need for costly cobalt, and experiments in graphene-based and sulfide-based technology could shorten charging time to mere seconds and extend battery life by decades. See our video on the chemistry of cars to learn more about how these elements function in a typical gas-powered automobile. With governments creating greater incentives for the development of these technologies, the future looks bright for electric vehicles.
For more information on the history of electric cars, see this timeline from energy.gov. Interested in other alternatives to gas-powered engines? Check out our video, “What’s the Best Fuel for Your Car?”
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