The electric car industry has had many false starts with the first one coming as early as the 1880s. To be exact, the first successfully built electric car hit the road in 1888, having come off a German manufacturing plant. Since then, several other attempts have been made over the course of history to bring these cars to the mass market to no avail. The current wave of excitement towards them began in 2008 and is likely to stay, considering how far the industry has gone in the last five years. All factors considered, it looks like these cars are finally breaking the “glass ceiling” to enter the mainstream automobile market.
These cars, as their name suggests are automobiles that are fully powered by electric energy. The energy is stored in a reserve (battery) from which it drives motor(s), which propel the automobile. Since electric energy is renewable, these cars have elicited quite some attention in recent years due to their ability to eliminate the emissions problem that is bedeviling environmental conservation efforts globally. It is common knowledge that motor vehicles are the biggest contributor to the emissions menace. As such, a shift from diesel and gasoline powered motor vehicles will no doubt cut global green house gas emissions by a massive margin.
This makes them one of the solutions to global warming and its devastating effects. At this point one would wonder why, if these cars have the potential to solve such a serious problem, they have not been adopted on large-scale basis. There are several answers to this question.
First off, their inability to travel long distances without interruption has been, by far, their biggest shortcoming. Since they are powered by energy from a battery, the capacity of the battery becomes an issue of interest. Up to recently, batteries could only store charge capable of powering an electric car for a distance of 90 kilometers at a time. This shortcoming led to what is commonly referred to as ‘range anxiety’ by electric car enthusiasts. The problem was further accentuated by the fact that charging infrastructure was largely lacking or underdeveloped in most parts of the world. Owning an electric car was, thus, impractical.
However, there is some good news! Tesla recently unveiled a new battery with a 315 mile range for use on these cars. This translates to 506.9 kilometers. Without doubt, this will effectively solve the range anxiety problem and make these cars more popular because most car owners, for example in the U.S., drive less than 40 miles per day. This, coupled with the fact that charging infrastructure and equipment are being established across the world, ensures that people will no longer worry about being stranded on the road when their batteries run out. To add to the good news, current batteries can charge much faster and more efficiently.
Another contributor to the struggling popularity of electric cars has been their prohibitive cost. Although today almost every major auto maker has its own model in this category, they still produce them on a small-scale basis, making the production very costly; costs that are liberally transferred to the buyer. The implication here is that even though some environmentally conscious individuals may want to own an electric car, they cannot a afford one that can meet their travel requirements. For example, the Tesla models fitted with the 315-mile capacity battery will cost between 134,500 USD and 135,500 USD. This price range is way above the means of the average car owner. It is, however, encouraging that since such improvements will bolster their popularity, this will lead to mass production and eventually, a reduction in costs.
These two have been the biggest obstacles for the electric car industry. However, since they are gradually being surmounted, the electric car industry is rearing to go. It is only a matter of time before they upset the status quo in the automotive industry. There have been claims of auto makers being prevailed upon by stakeholders in the oil industry to let go of their ambitions to populate the world’s roads with electric cars. A classic example is GM’s EV1. However, currently the world is past that stage and it can finally be said that electric cars will compete favorably in the auto market. So, yes! There is hope for the electric car industry.