A HISTORY OF ELECTRIC VEHICLES
Electric cars were first developed in the mid 1800’s, France and the U.K. being the first countries that supported the widespread development of electric vehicles with Germany following in the 1880’s and America soon after. The advantages of the electric car compared to a petrol driven one, were the lack of vibration, smell and noise but both types could only manage about 20 mph. at that time! Petrol cars required manual crank
starting with a handle which was difficult and could be dangerous at times.
In the early 1900’s, electric cars had about a third of the market share with steam
driven vehicles another third and the remainder being petrol driven but there was a
rapid decline in the popularity of electric vehicles as petrol vehicles became easier and
cheaper to operate. This was largely down to the invention of the starter motor which
led to spark ignition and transformed the car's convenience. Improved roads and the
availability of cheap oil also helped the petrol powered vehicle to its predominant
position such that by 1910, nearly all vehicles were petrol driven and the only electric vehicles were used for specific roles. Virtually no technological development occurred through most of the twentieth century to advance electric vehicle technology. The first serious attempts to revitalise the electric vehicle market were not until the 1990’s, following strict government pollution control limits introduced in California, some manufacturers including Honda and Toyota introduced hybrid petrol vehicles with the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius. The latter, introduced in 1997 became very popular and a new generation Prius is still in production. In 2010 there was further momentum in the market for electric vehicles when Nissan introduced the Leaf, the first all-electric, zero exhaust emission model which is the best selling EV worldwide. Around the same time, Tesla Motors started production of their all electric cars with the Tesla Roadster.
In the following years, Renault, Mitsubishi, BMW, Volkswagen, Chevrolet and Mercedes all introduced hybrid models or pure electric models and other manufacturers’ models started coming on stream assisted by government incentives and ecological issues surrounding the use of fossil fuel burning vehicles and greenhouse gases. The market continues to develop quickly with existing and new models helped by technological advances in battery design, electric motors and also the emergence of hydrogen as a fuel source particularly for larger vehicles.
Charging infrastructure is improving at a fast pace and electric vehicles have become established in many regional logistics operations. For example, La Poste, the national postal service of France launched its electric vehicle program in 2010 and today has the largest fleet in the world with over 10,000 EV’s.