THERE are suggestions that as many as one in 10 cars will run on electricity by 2020.
That’s got to be an optimistic view. After all, when I was growing up in the 1970s weren’t we all supposed to be zipping about the skies in little family spaceships by about now – 2010. They don’t seem to have materialised. The only thing that zips about the skies above Huddersfield are Chinese lanterns which some confused skygazers still insist are UFOs.
But the strange thing about electric cars is that they’ve been around as long as … well, the car. In fact, in the early 20th Century they were very much the in-thing, apparently providing a level of comfort and ease of operation that could not be achieved by the fuel-powered cars of the time.
They even held many speed and distance records. Among the most notable of these was the breaking of the 62mph speed barrier by Camille Jenatzy on April 29, 1899, in his ‘rocket-shaped’ vehicle Jamais Contente, which reached a top speed of 65.79 mph.
In 1897 electric vehicles found their first commercial application in the United States as a fleet of electrical New York City taxis, built by the Electric Carriage and Wagon Company of Philadelphia.
Of course that all changed when the gas-guzzlers came along – and some would say Henry Ford was to blame.
Advances in internal combustion technology gave petrol-powered motors – as they do today – far greater range and quicker refuelling. Petrol stations must have been easier to set up than electricity stations. The Ford Motor Company reduced prices of petrol cars to less than half that of equivalent electric cars which led to a decline in the use of electric propulsion, effectively removing it from important markets such as the United States by the 1930s.
But today we face new challenges such as saving the environment and the fact that the natural resources used to manufacture fuel are running out.