We are getting closer to slipping seamlessly into car seats, touching buttons and purring away soundlessly in carbon-friendly cars. But why is it taking so long for electrified movements to become reality? Are the oil barons still in charge in Detroit (or more likely China, India and Korea)?
An Englishman called Thomas Parker made the first electric car in 1884 after someone else invented rechargeable lead acid batteries. For what it’s worth, he was also Locomotive, Carriage and Wagon Superintendent of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway from 1886 to 1893, when he electrified the London Underground train service. The German Flocken Elektrowagen followed in 1888, although second is never best for me and with a name like that I’m not surprised.
Thomas Parker Electric Car looking not too amused with his electric contraption.
A golden age of electric motoring followed. In those days petrol-driven cars (although they were more often broken down) were irritable noisy things that backfired and made horses stampede and ladies drop their parasols. After Henry Ford put an end to that, electrified movements were soon forgotten, because his cars came in at half the price and went further without topping up.
Several people had a go at reviving electrified movements during World War II when every petrol drop was precious. In 1961, a gent called C. Russell Feldman had a fling with Henney Kilowatt. It smiled nice enough but there were only 47 takers because by then the Rockefellers were pumping gas like there was no tomorrow, and handing it out the back door.
After that things went quiet for decades, with the only electrified movements being nutty professors driving golf carts around the campus, and UK milkmen sneaking along side streets quiet as cats in slippers. After sleeping on the subject the governments suddenly woke up and announced that everybody was going to be electrically mobile to save the planet. The auto industry response went down like a flat tire.
Tesla Roadster, how green is that?
Poor fellows; they have their dollars sunk in gasoline and their feet are stuck in crude. So they have concentrated on hybrid engines that keep their stinky poo internal combustion engines in the limelight. Beyond that – and a few symbolic sideshows – they passed their monkey to a few small electric car developers – but may live to regret this when these up the ante.
So far there have been intermittent blasts of achievement like the Tesla Roadster. This has Californian yuppies singing out in pleasure, as the wind fingers through their hair and they enjoy a gentle puff of air.
According to their design chief their Model 3 is going to be ‘an Audi A4, BMW 3-series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class type of vehicle that will offer everything: range, affordability, and performance with a starting price of US$30,000 that is targeted toward the mass-market’. That’s not a dripping tap. It’s me salivating.