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Electric cars have been viewed as a solution to the ever looming global energy crisis for the last three decades. The U.S., for instance, relies heavily on fossil fuels to power its transport sector. She is consequently forced to import about 33 percent of the total crude oil it needs annually, a matter that often disrupts its national budgetary dynamics as well as its environmental and foreign policy formulations. This state of affairs may have been averted if more time and resources were directed toward developing electricity powered vehicles several decades ago, given that electric cars have been around for over 200 years.

The Origins

By the turn of the 18th century, factories and trains were running on steam-powered engines. Mechanical engineers tried the revolutionary technology on self-propelled vehicles only to discover that it was an impractical idea since a steam-vehicle engine would take up to 45 minutes to ignite. About 100 years later, a Hungarian inventor, Ányos Jedlik, created the electric motor and used it to power a small prototype car.

Thomas Davenport, a renowned blacksmith in Vermont took up the electric motor idea and improved its electrification track. The improvement gave Professor Sibrandus Stratingh and Christopher Becker the ideological impetus to make a small-scale electric car that ran on non-reachable primary battery cells in 1835. The use of electricity in the transport industry wasn’t however fully embraced until 1840 when Robert Anderson, an English engineer, convinced the world that electric powered vehicles and trains were the future of transport on land.

Ushering in the Golden Age of Electric Cars

The invention of lead-acid battery by French physicist Gaston Planté in 1859 ushered in a revolutionary era in the history of electric motor industry. The battery’s design was significantly improved by 1881, making it possible for innovators such as Thomas Parker to come up with the early electric vehicles that were meant to be assembled at a grand scale for commercial purposes.

Many don’t believe that electric cars have been around for over 200 years mainly because they can’t trace their history past the Walter C. Bersey fleet of electric taxis that took London by storm in 1890 and 1900s. The idea was exported to the U.S. by Samuel’s Electric Carriage and Wagon Company. Woods Motor Vehicle Company in Chicago took the electric car technology a notch higher in 1911 when it created car engines that could operate on both electricity and gasoline – giving rise to the birth of hybrid cars.

The Death and Resurrection of Electric Cars

After enjoying a relatively high level of success at the dawn of the 20th century, the electric car industry slumped with the coming of sophisticated gasoline propelled vehicles in 1920s. Improved road infrastructure gave people the allure to embrace speed and elegance. As a result of these, electric cars fell into an abyss of oblivion until the turn of the 21st century when oil prices and environmental concerns became a global threat to the economy as well as the environment. Today, nearly all leading car manufactures are rethinking and reshaping the future of electric cars with the arrival high-end tech oriented lithium-ion batteries, solar technology and electric car recharging stations which have sparked new found interest in the car market around the world.

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