Electric vehicles, we are often told, are the future. A whole range of carmakers and nations have plans to go electric.
The largest US manufacturer, General Motors, says it will phase out fossil-fuel vehicles by 2035. Norway has set a goal to end sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2025, the UK by 2030, and France by 2040.
The new federal government has put electric vehicles firmly on the agenda. Industry Minister Chris Bowen did so in a speech at the EV Summit on August 19. As global consultancy McKinsey and Co has declared, “the automotive future is electric”.
A very long and troubled history
What is often overlooked is that electric vehicles have a history as well as a future. If we look back we can see they are not a futuristic dream but a longstanding transport option.
This history also illuminates the barriers that electric vehicles face – and are steadily overcoming. It is a troubled history with particular relevance to Australians, so long attached to internal combustion.
Electric vehicles have been around since car manufacturing began. Robert Davidson built the first practical electric vehicle – a 16-foot (4.9 metre) truck driven by electro-magnetic motors – in Scotland in 1837. This was decades before the internal combustion engine was invented.
Read more: TheConversation