The future is now. Interest in electric cars has grown in the last few years as the efforts to combat the climate crisis increased. Traditional petrol behemoths have modernised their range of vehicles, creating models which crackle with potential and performance.
History of Electric Cars
Electric cars were once more popular than their combustion counterparts - albeit over 100 years ago! Before the Ford Model T revolutionised affordable petrol-powered vehicles, battery-powered vehicles were common, especially on the streets of New York. Once crude oil became easy to find and cheap to purchase, the interest in electric vehicles disappeared. However, in the 1970s they enjoyed a brief resurgence due to spiralling petrol prices.
The first mass-produced hybrid vehicle - a vehicle powered by both combustion and battery power - didn’t appear until the turn of the 21st Century with the development of the Toyota Prius. The popularity of the Prius, combined with the growing climate crisis, led to the creation of popular zero-emission vehicles in 2010, with the Nissan Leaf.
The revolutionary moment for electric vehicles was when Tesla entered the industry with the Roadster model, released in 2012. From then on, electric vehicles began to gain traction and popularity within the automotive industry.
Hybrid High-end and Hypercars
Once Tesla proved that battery-powered cars could achieve similar performances to a combustion engine, R&D into the sector grew. More and more companies began to experiment with hybrid technology. This led to a hypercar standoff between three of the biggest high-end manufacturers: Porsche, McLaren and Ferrari with the 918 Spyder, P1 and LaFerrari respectively. All three were limited-production plug-in hybrids which could achieve eye-watering acceleration and top-speeds. The Porsche and McLaren could also be driven solely off of the electric motor. These cars exhibited what the technology could achieve and succeeded in making the hybrid technology ‘cool’ for many people.
Increasing numbers of high-end manufacturers, such as Mercedes and BMW began to turn towards hybrid technology. Bentley even created a hybrid version of their luxury vehicle, the Bentayga. Also, a hybrid Lamborghini is scheduled for release early into the next decade.
Some manufacturers have taken an even bigger step towards reducing their emissions. BMW has an electric range to go with its hybrid i8. Jaguar and Aston Martin have bypassed the hybrid route altogether, opting instead for fully electric cars, the I-PACE and Rapide E, both released in 2019. The I-pace is described as an all-electric performance SUV. The Rapide E is an all-guns-blazing supercar with over 600bhp produced by electric motors. Aston Martin is also releasing an all-electric SUV called the Lagonda, with details unconfirmed. Tesla has also kept up their developments, creating rapidly accelerating models such as the new Model 3, which can go from 0-62mph in just over three seconds.
Mercedes and Porsche are also releasing electric supercars in the first half of 2020, with the AMG One, (an unofficial name), and Taycan respectively. The battery range on these vehicles is much greater than it once was. Porsche says the Taycan can do around 250-260 miles on a single charge.
Other independent manufacturers have taken the electric concept and gone bonkers with it. The Rimac Concept One, packed with 1300bhp, achieved a top speed of over 240mph! Considering there aren’t many petrol-powered vehicles that can achieve those speeds, the electric Rimac is quite impressive.
Electric for the People
Now that electric power has become more affordable and common, many manufacturers have begun scrambling to create the perfect family electric vehicle.
The Nissan Leaf has recently entered the second generation of production, alongside the Renault Zoe. New electric vehicles are being created all the time. In 2020 the new MINI E will launch as well as an electric Honda, several Audis, BMWs, Kias and more.
Ford has recently announced a new plug-in hybrid version of the ever-popular Transit Van, launching soon. As an added environmental bonus, the 1.0l turbo engine is only there to charge the electric batteries, which can last around 30 miles on a single charge - perfect for inner-city driving. Volvo has also pledged to the future of the automotive industry by committing to only making hybrid or electric cars from 2019 onwards.
These vehicles aim to be affordable for families, just like combustion-powered hatchbacks. This initiative is designed to increase the number of electric vehicles on the road and reduce the number of high-emissions ones.
In 2014 Formula One committed to using hybrid technology to reduce their carbon footprint. The amount of money invested by the teams has seen impressive technological developments in the road car industry. Not only that but many LMP-1, (high-end hypercar class), Le Mans race-cars are run using hybrid power, delivering staggering acceleration, top-speed and endurance.
More importantly, Formula E, the world’s only all-electric racing series, has delivered exhilarating racing since 2014/15. The championship has expanded to include 24 cars in the upcoming season. Featuring teams from Jaguar, Nissan and Mercedes, the Formula One heavyweights signing on for the new season. The grid is made up of several of ex-Formula One drivers including eleven-time race winner and former Ferrari driver Felipe Massa. These races are often much shorter than Formula One and take place on tight and twisting street circuits. To find out more information about Formula E, check out this handy guide.
Many countries have committed to producing zero combustion vehicles from as early as 2025, (the UK’s target is 2040), so the technology will only develop further and become more widespread. The UK Government has pledged money in grants towards encouraging electric vehicle takeup, up to 30% of the vehicle’s worth or £3,500.
The range of electric batteries has vastly improved and the infrastructure to support an electric future is being installed across the country. Charging times have decreased, although charging your vehicle at your house will still take most of the evening to go from empty to full. But with an increase in the capacity of batteries and the installation of fast-charging points across the UK, charging your car could become as quick and easy as charging your phone.
The world is the electric vehicle’s oyster and it will eventually become the norm. Who knows, perhaps the electric vehicles of the future will also drive themselves…
Electric vehicles are well and truly here to stay and the electric revolution will only gather momentum. More and more people are becoming concerned about the environment and interested in electric cars. Are you one of them? We’d like to hear from you! Let us know your electric experiences in the comments below and where you think the technology will end up.