EV battery history. Battery-powered electric vehicles predate the internal combustion engine. In 1899 and 1900 more electric vehicles were sold in the US than gasoline and steam cars combined. Initially these electric vehicles were used primarily in the city, as roads were often nonexistent in rural areas. Range was adequate for city driving, often exceeding the range of steam engines between stops for water. Electricity was scarce outside of cities, with both AC and DC and different voltages offered, making long distance travel with electrics nearly impossible.
Once roads became more passable, gasoline became available, and Henry Ford began cranking out his Model T’s, battery EV sales dropped after reaching a peak in 1912.
What a difference a century has made!GM,s modern 2-passenger EV1 marked a dramatic evolution since the original battery cars, with 80 miles range between battery charges and a smooth, aerodynamic body. Regrettably for those who were fortunate to lease these beauties (at heavily subsidized prices), GM decided that they were too expensive to maintain with only a limited market and they therefore canceled the program, recalling and crushing the EV1s and the hearts of those who loved them.
The advantages of a battery electric vehicle include:
- Zero tailpipe emissions
- No volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
- No carbon monoxide (CO)
- No nitrogen oxides (NOx)
- No tailpipe particulate matter (PM)
- No carcinogenic compounds
- No sulfur oxides (SOx)
Zero direct petroleum consumption (However, petroleum is consumed to prospect for, mine, process and transport the fuels necessary to run electrical power plants, predominantly coal in the US.)
The potential for zero or near-zero greenhouse gas emissions in the long run (depending on the source of electricity, which is predominately coal-based in the US today.)
New battery technologies. Batteries have improved dramatically over the last few decades, driven primarily by the need for long-life portable electronic equipment such as cell phones, cameras and laptops. For an electric vehicle, the greatest challenge is to reduce the mass of the battery, since every extra kg requires a slightly heavier car frame, a slightly larger motor to accelerate the extra weight, and slightly larger brakes to stop the car....a process known as “mass compounding” that drives up the vehicle mass much more than just the added battery weight to achieve greater range between battery-charging.
The lead acid (Pb-A) batteries that have been used on motor vehicles for over 100 years were adequate for running the lights, the battery and, most importantly, for running the electric starter motor. But stashing enough Pb-A batteries on a car to drive more than 50 to 80 miles is a major challenge.
BEV weight (mass). The graph below shows the mass of a 5-passenger, full-performance battery electric vehicle (BEV) as a function of the vehicle’s range between battery charging for three different battery technologies. These BEV designs are based on a special AIV Mercury Sable with an ultra-light aluminum body to minimize total vehicle weight and maximize range.