The Journey of Electric Vehicles from Concept to Reality

Story Highlights
  • The First EV; A Scooter
  • Moving Up; Bikes and Cruisers
  • Today’s EV Market

The nineteenth century saw the invention of the first electric cars. Until 1900, an electric vehicle may have held the land speed record, but the high price and low top speed stood in contrast to the affordable and swifter gas-powered cars of the 20th century. Their use as private engine cars fell off due to this difference.

The shift towards more environmentally friendly power sources and the eco-revolution in the oil and transportation industries have increased interest in electric vehicles as we approach the dawn of the twenty-first century.

The First EV; A Scooter

Several people are credited with developing the first type of electric scooter. Anyos Jedlik, a physicist and minister from Hungary, invented the first electric engine in 1828 and used it to power a small scooter. Scottish inventor Robert Anderson also created a crude electric bike between 1832 and 1839. Finally, Professor Sibrandus Stratingh of Groningen, the Netherlands, and his German colleague Christopher Becker made a small-scale electric vehicle (resembling an electric scooter) in 1835. Primary cells rather than batteries powered this vehicle.

The early development of electric scooters and bikes could have been organized better. Ogden Bolton Jr. submitted a patent application on September 19, 1895, for an “electrical cycle.” Another “electric bike” patent application was submitted on November 8 of the same year, according to Hosea W. Libbey.

Moving Up; Bikes and Cruisers

A two-person electric bike was on show by cycle maker Humber at the Stanley Cycle Show in 1896 in London, England. The engine was placed in front of the back wheel under the control of a bank of capacity batteries. Put across the handlebars is the speed control.

Humber created this electric bicycle with racetracks in mind.

A two-wheeled electric bike pulling a single-wheeled trailer was created by Merle Williams of Long Beach, California, during World War II due to restrictions imposed by fuel proportioning in the US. Williams started producing more of these vehicles in his workshop due to the vehicle’s popularity. It led to the establishment of the Marketeer Company in 1946. (current-day ParCar Corp.)

In 1967, Karl Kordesch created an electric bike using a power source and nickel-cadmium batteries when he was employed for Union Carbide. A hydrazine power unit that offered a range of 200 miles (320 km) per gallon and a top speed of 25 mph (40 km/h) later took its place.

The Charger was a motorcycle made by the California-based Auranthic Corp. in 1974. It could travel 50 miles (80 km) and reach 30 mph (48 km/h) on a full charge.

Eyeball Engineering founder Ed Rannberg tested his electric drag cruiser in Bonneville in 1988. It would take 11–12 seconds to complete a quarter-mile (0.25 miles; 400 m).

Today’s EV Market

China is currently the world’s top producer of electric bikes. It accounts for over 92% of the global market. They produced 22.2 million units in 2009 alone. The popularity of electric vehicles like automobiles and scooters is due to their environmentally beneficial mode of transportation, and the present eco-revolution the transportation sector is going through is here to stay.

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