For those of you thinking that electric cars didn’t exist before Elon Musk and Tesla, think again.
Those stepping out into the manure-strewn streets of Manhattan in 1897 could have hailed a battery fuelled, as opposed to horse drawn, taxi. In 1900, more than 1,000 electric cars were made in the US, 28 per cent of total American car production that year.
A few years later, however, Henry Ford produced the petrol-powered Model T and the electric starter motor replaced the hand crank. From that point on, the electric car was seemingly doomed: not enough power, not enough range and, as petrol stations proliferated, not enough charging points.
To be fair, electric vehicles still managed to flourish in niche areas. The humble milk float had a maximum speed of around 15mph, could travel roughly 25 miles (following a seven-hour charge) and blocked the streets of Britain for decades. Floats were cheap to run and could easily be charged at the milk depot after the day’s deliveries (a model that could be used in the 21st century if we end up with huge fleets of self-driving cars). Still, floats could never compete with a Ford or, for that matter, a Ferrari.
Tesla, however, can. And, increasingly, so can other manufacturers of electric cars, one reason why the Government is now planning to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2035. Range is less of an issue than it once was. The cars — unlike milk floats — are quick. Fuel-wise, they’re incredibly efficient: they don’t rely on the controlled explosions taking place in an internal combustion engine (which creates too much by the way of heat and too little by the way of miles). And, over time, the maintenance bills will be a lot lower: no gearboxes to go wrong, no spark plugs to clean, no engine oil to be changed.
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