Electric cars: a flop for many but a top to some!

Electric car 1917

When were the first electric cars built? Take a guess! Everything already started in Europe in the mid-19th century. Even more surprising, at the beginning of the 20th century, electric cars had become the number 1 business mobility choice of the noble class. Frankly, early versions of the petrol engine did not hold a chance against the electric counterparts. In 1911 the New York Times noted that “electric cars are ideal, for they are cleaner, quieter, and much more economical than gasoline-powered cars.” [1] This still holds very true today so why haven’t electric cars taken over yet? Well, the reasons for its little success today are the same that eventually made the internal combustion engine conquer the world. Let’s take a look at what’s causing the problem.

Electric cars are still not competitive

The high price of the batteries makes electric cars significantly more expensive than petrol cars. Only the battery packs alone for an electric Ford Focus for instance cost between 12.000 $ and 15.000 $ today. [2] The recharging infrastructure remains poor. Although you can charge your car at home by connecting it to a wall socket this takes around 10 hours to have a full “tank”.

Charging electric cars

This works way quicker at a so-called charging point, which are distributed across the country. The only problem is that there are still too few. In the UK for example there are currently only 200 electric charging points in comparison to almost 9000 petrol stations.[3] Additionally, electric engines have a lower range than petrol cars so they need to charge more often. From 1910 onwards, the reign of electric cars was doomed to end. Petrol cars became handier because they had improved engines and oil was cheap. They were also heavily promoted by extensive marketing schemes [4].

But: there is business mobility potential

Today, however, some people might very well benefit from an electric car. Many prefer travelling long distances by train or plane and use their car only to commute to work. For this group of people it is unlikely that the lower range of electric cars poses a problem. Upon arrival at work, the car could then be charged at the working place itself and at home during the night. Why not? Business mobility that is comfortable, quick, and environmentally friendly! Yet, the price, the recharging infrastructure, and low range are the reasons why almost everyone still uses “the good old” petrol car. The full transition from petrol to electricity will come but not in the near future. Perhaps that’s why the hybrid car is relatively successful: it eases the transition by combining both electricity and petrol.

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