Vroom Vroom (with "V" as in volt)!  The rise, fall and era of the electric car - and what its history tells us

Vroom Vroom (with “V” as in volt)! The rise, fall and era of the electric car – and what its history tells us

Danielle Cordova and her daughter Alina from Sentences family. They come from generations of low-end, sporty car enthusiasts and skilled mechanics. When 14-year-old Alina has enough for her king Ride, Danielle said one would wait for her.

The rise, fall and rebirth of electric cars

“It’s kind of a tradition,” Danielle said. “Even my husband – her father – has the car from his father.”

I met them at the Petersen Automobile Museum in the downtown Wilshire area of ​​Los Angeles. Despite her family’s self-described old-school preferences, Alina was checking out an exhibit about the new School: electric cars.

“I heard they are in California planning to start selling only electric cars,” she said. “So I kind of want to see how it goes because I’ve seen it hit California and then spread across America.”

Auto enthusiast Danielle Cordova, right, and her daughter Alina at the Petersen Automotive Museum.

Alina right. California issued regulations this year to Finishing the sale of new gas-powered Cars by 2035 – Although 20% of new cars sold in 2035 could still be plug-in hybrids, which use both gasoline and electric. The ban only applies to the new vehicles, so you’ll still be able to buy a petrol car or keep your own of course.

Given the country’s share in the auto market, the regulations are expected to stimulate sales of electric vehicles across the country. And the new climate and tax law for the Biden administration Electric vehicles likely to push into the mainstream.

People are hungry for affordable options. according to Recent consumer survey Of the AAA, 1 in 4 Americans say they want to buy electricity for their next car…mostly because of gas prices.

Pending global crises and supply chain issues, we are likely to see more electric vehicles on the road only in the next few years. Part of California requires tripling the number of electric and hybrid vehicles sold by 2026. Affordability is likely to remain a big issue for the near future, but the California Air Resources Board (CARB) Estimates The prices of electric vehicles will be equal to or cheaper than gas-powered cars by 2030.

Breath for the climate… and health

more than 40% off Greenhouse gas emissions in California come from the tailpipes of heavy trucks and millions of passenger cars, with the rest coming from vehicles like trains and planes.

Globally, transportation emissions represent about five More carbon dioxide is warming the planet – and increasing our dependence on fossil fuels: Data from the International Energy Agency It shows that about 48% of global oil extraction operations operate in some form of automated road transportation.

That’s why we need to get more people into electric cars to cut California’s greenhouse gas emissions — and the world — said Adam Millard Ball, professor of urban planning at UCLA.

We will not be able to solve the climate crisis without electric cars.

Adam Millard Ball, Professor of Urban Planning at the University of California

“We won’t be able to solve the climate crisis without electric cars,” Millard Ball said. “And that’s mainly because transportation is a big part of the climate problem.”

Gas and diesel cars, buses, and trucks are also the biggest source of the infamous smog in Los Angeles. If all statewide and nationwide electric vehicle goals are met by 2035, American Lung Association estimates Reducing smog pollution will help avert 110,000 premature deaths by 2050.

Colorful pie chart showing greenhouse gas emissions by sector.

2019 California Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Sector.

(California Air Resources Board



The promising history of the electric car

In the 1890s, growing American cities were engulfed in traffic and pollution, largely due to horses being the primary mode of transportation. The dung was literally piling up. New York health officials Estimated emissions from manure kill tens of thousands of people every year.

A new technology has emerged that might solve the problem: horseless chariots…or, as we call them today, cars.

To learn more, I caught up with Petersen Automobile Museum chief historian Leslie Kendall. We walked through one of the Current exhibits About the history of electric cars. The first was developed by a Scottish inventor around 1839.

Photo of the front of a green car with black leather seats and white wheels.

1908 Columbia Electric. Electric cars at the time were mostly made from rechargeable nickel-cadmium or lead-acid batteries.

We parked in front of an old green car that basically looks like a horse-drawn cart without a horse. The 1908 Columbia Electric was one of 20 electric vehicle models the company came out with.

“It’s an example of what a nice driver would drive today because it was so expensive,” Kendall said.

Yes, electric cars were also very expensive at the time – about three times the cost of the world’s first mass-produced car, the Model T Ford, which was also introduced in 1908.

Electric cars were then powered by lead-acid or nickel-cadmium rechargeable batteries, and for those who could afford them, they were better than gas-powered options: At the turn of the 20th century, electric cars were being purchased in greater numbers than their competitors, Kendall said. Al-Bukhari and Petroleum.

The Model T, for example, was noisy and fumes smelly and you had to move it to start working. But electric cars … I just got in, pulled a crane and hit the road. Kendall said she was calm and smooth, which made her especially popular with wealthy women at the time.

A man in a white shirt and khaki pants stands next to an old mechanical cemetery with blue-gray paint and white wheels in a museum.

Leslie Kendall, principal historian of the Petersen Automobile Museum, stands next to the 1915 Detroit Electric, the most popular electric car of the early 20th century.

We walk into another car – it’s a little bigger, a little sleeker and has lush velvet windows and seats: a 1915 Detroit Electric.

“It was probably the most popular electric car,” Kendall said. “They made these until 1938, 1939.”

It has a top speed of 20 mph and a range of 80 miles on a single charge. Thomas Edison drove a car with a rechargeable nickel iron battery that he invented himself. But it was also affordable for the rich in society.

“What the public has been waiting for is for electric cars to become comfortable … which also includes making them more affordable,” Kendall said. “They had a lot of really good points, a lot of really positive aspects. But, gasoline, it was cheap at first.”

Kendall said the real game-changer came in 1912 when Cadillac introduced an autonomous gasoline engine.

“Suddenly, petrol cars went off like they were crazy,” Kendall said. “Electric cars have seen a huge decline in popularity. Gasoline cars have become more reliable, they have become quieter, they have become more powerful… they are where they are today.”

There was no money in electric cars, Kendall said, and besides a few repairers, automakers have largely stopped building them.

The boom in gas-powered cars Our culture and cities have changed dramatically. Los Angeles has expanded its streets to make room for more cars and parking. There was a lot of oil here to support the automobile boom. Highways were given priority over mass transit.

What can the past tell us about the future of electric cars?

Thanks to cars, we don’t have to deal with piles of horse dung on the streets anymore. And we can go a lot further, a lot faster – when there’s no traffic, of course.

But when gas triumphed over electricity, it led us to another angle: a climate crisis. And the basic issues the car was supposed to solve — traffic, air pollution, and safety — are becoming more firmly established.

As Mark Twain famously said, “History never repeats itself…but it often has a rhyme.”

It wasn’t until the 1960s when air pollution and oil spills sparked interest in electric cars again. And only in the past decade has technology, such as lithium batteries, been able to catch up with speed.

Big dark blue truck in a museum

Automakers are making significant investments in electric trucks and SUVs, and the most popular vehicle in the United States is the 2021 Alpha Motor Corporation Wolf electric truck.

But we may not be learning from the past, said Millard Ball of the University of California.

“We are very focused on cars in Los Angeles, and one of the things that I think is a risk of putting pressure on electric cars is that we can then neglect to see other things that we can do to not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also improve street safety and reduce air pollution “.

He recalled the 1970s, when Los Angeles choked with smog much worse than we have today. Cars have been a major source of pollutants that have caused poor air quality across the country. But politics and technology helped: In 1970, Congress passed the Clean Air Act, one of the most important environmental laws in the country. Since then, despite massive population growth and more cars on the road, the legislation has helped reduce air pollution across the country by more than 70 percent.

The Clean Air Act also stimulated new technology: it required that new cars have catalytic converters, which greatly limited tailpipe emissions. But the other way to tackle pollution is to encourage alternatives to cars.Fell on the side of the road.

“There were those great promises, well, we’re going to fix this problem in part with cleaner cars and catalytic converters, but also by getting people out of cars where they can — more people walking, cycling, better buses,” Millard Ball said.

“In practical terms, the first part of that was incredibly successful. The air quality is still poor, but it’s much better than it was in Los Angeles in the 1970s. But we didn’t really take advantage of the second part in terms of building a truly competitive private car transit system.” And I worry that the same will happen with electric cars.”

LA already has the most electric car drivers and chargers in the world and has ambitious plans for it Expand that infrastructure.

If trucks and cars are needed, let’s make them electric. But it shouldn’t come at the cost of actually doing the hard work of rethinking the way we use our streets.

– Michael Schneider, transit attorney

The city has added slowly More bus and bike lanes, but it has fallen far behind in implementing its transportation and mobility plan.

As Ryan Fonseca from LAist Widely reportedCars that kill pedestrians are becoming a bigger problem — and heavier electric cars (for example, the new Ford electric F-150 is about 1,500 pounds heavier than its gas-powered counterpart) — certainly won’t fix that or help,” said Michael Schneider, founder of Mobility Defense Group. Local, The potholes plaguing the streets of Los Angeles streets for everyone.

“If there is a need to have trucks and cars, let’s make them electric,” Schneider said. “But it shouldn’t come at the cost of actually doing the hard work of rethinking the way we use our streets.”

Schneider cited Santa Monica as an example of a city that crosses correctly. The city has invested heavily in protected bike lanes, placing bus-only lanes, and removing parking spaces.

But Los Angeles is moving slower. newly Analytics According to LA Metro, the agency could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions through its investments in sustainable mobility and rapid transit, but that these reductions will be negated by the agency’s current plans to expand highways.

Given the environmental and human rights impacts of mining the rare earth minerals needed to make electric cars, Schneider fears electric cars will push us into another corner of the consequences…as gas-powered cars did a century ago.

Science may show that electric cars are a key piece of the puzzle to tackle the climate crisis and improve air quality, but also important, Schneider said, are greater investments in sustainable transportation options that no Engaging cars…even electric.

Climate emergency questions

fires. Mudslides. heat waves. What questions need to be answered as you prepare for the effects of the climate emergency?

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