History of the Development of Zero-emission Vehicles
The history and development of zero-emission vehicles (ZEV) is set out below. For continuity and easy reading, the chronological history is presented in list form.
- In 1832, the first small electric car was developed by English inventor, Robert Anderson.
- Fast-forward to the early 1891s. The US had its first electric car, thanks to William Morrison of Moines, Iowa. With a top speed of 14 mph, it was little more than an electrified wagon, but the car fueled the flame, and the popularity of electric cars gained momentum.
- 1896, saw electrified buses gracing the streets of some US cities. Electric cars made up one-third of the vehicles in the US by the turn of the century. At one point, passengers were driven around New York and London in electric taxis.
- Early in the twentieth century General Electric produced the "Electrant." which allowed people to charge on New York streets.
- By 1901 Thomas Edison had gained interest, considering electric vehicles the superior form of transport. Edison began working on a battery.
- It must pain Elon Musk to know the first hybrid electric car was invented by Ferdinand Porsche, sports car founder, in 1901. It was powered by a battery and gas tank.
- Henry Ford took the sword to the aspirations of the electric car fraternity, increasing production on his gas car between 1908-1912. The invention of the electric starter in 1912 was the final blow for electric cars.
- By the 1920s, cheap Texas crude oil, improving infrastructure and the railway expansion saw the popularity of the electric car tumble further.
- Fast-forward again to 1968. For the next five years, skyrocketing gas prices started to give electric cars a second wind.
- In 1971, the first manned vehicle drove on the moon. The Lunar Rover was an electric vehicle. This saw the public's interest further piqued toward electric vehicles.
- Vehicle manufacturers started seriously looking at the options for alternative fuel vehicles. General Motors' prototype of an urban electric car was unveiled at the First Symposium on Low Pollution Power Systems Development in 1973.
- Sebring-Vanguard was the leading manufacturer of electric cars, manufacturing over 2,000, Citicars. The popularity of the compact, wedge-shaped car was such that Sebring-Vanguard became the sixth largest vehicle manufacturer in the US in 1975. The car's range of 50-60 miles was soon to become an issue.
- The range and limited performance compared to gas vehicles saw electric vehicles' popularity fade once again at the end of the 1970s.
- Between 1990-1992, global warming was the hot topic on everyone's lips, with the enactment of the 1990 Clean Air Act in the US. This legislation created tighter controls around the emissions produced by vehicles. Vehicle manufacturers began modifying some of their popular models into electric vehicles, which put the issue around power and performance to bed.
- GM introduced the EV1 in 1996, which quickly gathered a die-hard fan base. It was discontinued in 2002.
- 1997 saw Toyota unveil the Prius, which was released globally in 2000. It became the vehicle of choice for green celebrities.
- Inventors and manufacturers were convinced they could do better, and scientists continued to work to improve electric vehicles and their batteries.
- 2006 saw a Silicon Valley startup take up the challenge. Tesla Motors announced it intended to produce a luxury electric car with a range of over 200 miles.
- By 2008, the Silicon Valley startup had put its first luxury electric car on the road. Known as the Roadster, Tesla Motors' vehicle had a top speed of 245 miles per hour, going from 0-60 in less than 4 seconds. Despite the US government's $7,500 tax credit, the Roadster was a luxury vehicle.
- Between 2009-2013 there was a realization these cars needed to be charged, and the Energy Department installed more than 18,000 residential, commercial, and public chargers across the US. (Today, the US has 8,000 public chargers.)
- Using a battery developed by the Energy Department, GM introduced the first commercially available plug-in hybrid, the Chevy Volt, in 2010.
- Nissan was quick to follow suit, with the Nissan Leaf, later the same year. The Leaf was a zero tailpipe emissions, all-electric car. Production of the Leaf began in Tennessee in 2013, after a loan from the Energy Department.
- The Energy Department's investment in the electric car battery paid dividends in 2013, which saw the electric car battery fall by 50% in 4 years, making the vehicles more affordable to the average consumer.
- By 2014, the choice for consumers included hybrid, all-electric, and plugin-hybrids.
- There were 23 plug-in electric and 36 hybrid models available in 2015.