NOT many people know this but the electric vehicle (EV) was actually launched before the internal combustion engine.
In the late 19th century, the EV was more popular than the early motorised carriages. The latter were rough and noisy and difficult to drive.
Back then, the EVs, though very heavy with their lead-acid batteries, were far smoother, quieter and supported by the wide availability of electric supply infrastructure in America.
Alas, as combustion engine vehicles became more refined, easier to drive and quicker, the switch to such vehicles marked the steady decline in demand for EVs. EVs have a short range and require a long charging time.
When petrol engine cars spawned inter-city travel, it also hastened the demise of EVs with their limited range. These electrified cars all but disappeared by the late 1930s.
Interest in EVs was rekindled in the 1990s with the primary objective of relying less on fossil fuels and reducing greenhouse gases.
Governments surmised that over dependence on oil for energy needs was politically and economically unwise. Unfortunately, the EV still faces the same disadvantages of short range, heavy batteries and the need for recharging facilities. Nickel metal hydride (NiMh) and lithium ion (Li-Ion) batteries were developed over the past 20 years and have replaced the ancient lead-acid batteries.
Lighter and more efficient than leadacid batteries, these newer power packs give car manufacturers greater leeway when designing EVs.
The most widespread use of battery packs is currently in hybrid vehicles, where electric motors work in unison with an internal combustion engine to power the car.
In such vehicles, the battery strength is continuously topped up when on the move. The range of hybrids is longer than normal cars since they are far more economical. And they never need to stop for recharging. Hybrids thus save precious fuel by having electric motor synergy, but unfortunately, they still need to burn petrol or diesel.
A true EV would reduce the reliance on oil, and most of the major motor manufacturers are developing it. Unfortunately, the high cost of these complex EVs means that there are currently no volume sellers.