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A bit of history: the origins of electric cars

 

Electric vehicles have a long history behind them. Their origin dates back to 1832, way before the invention of internal combustion engines. France and Great Britain were the first European countries to record a significant diffusion of electric vehicles starting from the end of the nineteenth century.

 

 

They were soon followed by the United States , with its first large-scale commercial application in 1897, when New York 's entire fleet of taxis switched to electricity. Automobiles were initially available in three versions: electric, steam and petrol. Hybrid cars were also developed in those years, thanks to technology developed by Ferdinand Porsche.

 

 

Electric automobiles were the favourite as they were noiseless and vibration-free, did not emit unpleasant smells and did not even have a gearshift. Between 1899 and 1900, electrically-powered automobiles were the best-selling type in the United States.

Steam-powered cars, on the other hand, were soon discarded as they required lengthy start-ups, up to 45 minutes. However, beginning in 1920, a series of economic-environmental factors marked a shift in favour of automobiles running on petrol, thus eclipsing the success of electric cars.

First of all, the discovery of large oil deposits in Texas led to a drastic reduction in the price of fuel, and the introduction of important innovations, such as Henry Ford's assembly line and the starter motor, marked a decisive shift in the trend.

Indeed, these new inventions made it possible to lower production costs and to make automobile prices affordable to a larger market segment.

Moreover, the excellent autonomy of petrol-powered cars also satisfied the growing need to travel longer and longer distances.

Between the end of the 1960s and the early 1970s, interest in electric cars was reawakened in view of growing concerns over improving air quality.

Starting in 1970, the United States launched the "Federal Clean Car Incentive Program" in order to deal with the staggering increase in the price of oil triggered by the embargo placed on OPEC countries and the Yom Kippur War of 1973, but the programme was soon scrapped because it failed to reach the set objectives.

In the 1990s, there was a new wave of excitement in the U.S. and production of electric vehicles resumed, also thanks to the California government's mandate "Zero Emission Vehicle".

However, the technology of electric prototypes still presented many shortcomings compared to traditional automobile technologies.

In recent years, the constant increases in the level of pollutant emissions and in fuel prices due to scarcer and scarcer oil reserves have reawakened the interest of young people and industry for a new concept of mobility, as well as a greater sensitivity for a cleaner future. In fact, many countries are now sponsoring new R&D programmes aimed at developing environmentally friendly hybrid or electric vehicles.

 

 

 

Rev.15.0126      

 

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