Electric cars are the future! There’s no denying that the popularity of electric cars is growing, as their ease of use, range and variations increase. But what do you know about them? Find out everything that you need to know about electric vehicles (EVs)…

The history of electric cars

Believe it or not, the first electric vehicle was actually built in 1832 by Scottish inventor Robert Anderson. It was an electric carriage powered by non-rechargeable cells. Following this, in the second half of the 19th century, French and English inventors built the first usable electric cars. These became extremely popular, and by 1900, electric cars accounted for around a third of the vehicles on the road!

Thomas Edison, the famous inventor, and Henry Ford, of Ford cars, worked together to explore options for a low-cost electric car in 1914. Edison believed that electric cars were superior, and worked hard to develop a better battery.

However, Ford’s Model T dealt a huge blow to electric vehicles. It was mass produced and affordable, costing a third of the price of an electric car, and petrol prices fell at around the same time. Improving road surfaces meant that Americans could get out and explore and the range of petrol vehicles was far better. Electric vehicles were all but gone by 1935.

It wasn’t until rising oil prices in the 1970s that electric vehicles were looked at again. The technology was still crude, though, and these cars had a top speed of 45 miles per hour, and could only travel 40 miles before needing to be recharged. They were forgotten again.

Then, in the 90s, environmental concerns began to arise. In 1997, the Toyota Prius was brought out and since then, electric vehicles have experienced a slow and steady increase in popularity, exploding in the last few years. There are currently over 50 models of electric cars on the market.

How do electric cars work?

Electric cars are powered by an electrically powered battery pack. This powers the motor and turns the wheels, until the battery runs out. They can be recharged by plugging into a socket or from a dedicated charging unit. 

There are a few types of electric vehicle – fully electric (these only have a battery) and hybrid (these use petrol as a back up for when the battery runs out).

What happens when the battery runs out?

It’s important to make sure that your electric car has enough battery power to get you where you need to go. There are many public charging points available, but you need to plan carefully! The range of electric vehicles has grown massively over the last few years, and they are more than suitable for commutes and running around town. For longer journeys, you’ll need to plan your route to ensure you can charge up on the way if necessary. 

Are electric cars good for the environment?

It’s widely believed that electric vehicles are much better for the environment, and to a large extent, this is true. Electric vehicles don’t emit exhaust fumes, leading to cleaner air in city centres. They also don’t rely on fossil fuels to the same extent that traditional petrol powered cars do. 

Petrol and diesel cars can only be fuelled by fossil fuels. Although electric cars need to be charged, and electricity production uses fossil fuels, this is changing. Much of the electricity currently produced comes from green sources, and this will only increase as governments work to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. In fact, it is possible to buy green tariffs from electricity suppliers, or use solar panels at home to ensure that charging your electric vehicle is as green as possible.

How do electric vehicles perform in hot and cold weather?

The true challenge for cars is how they perform in extreme temperatures. Petrol and diesel cars can struggle in hot and cold weather, so how do electric cars measure up?

Both hot and cold weather can affect the range of an EV. However, there are some things you can do to improve this; for example, running the air conditioner and heating while the car is plugged in, braking smoothly and parking in a covered area. 

Are electric cars more expensive than normal cars?

Electric cars are still more expensive than petrol vehicles, and this is mostly due to the cost of producing lithium batteries. However, it’s important to consider the differing fuel costs. Completely recharging an electric car battery can cost as little as £3-4 (less if you have solar panels!).

In addition, because there are fewer moving parts, electric cars need less frequent maintenance – this could save you over £300 a year.

You’ll also have less road tax to pay and, if you’re in a city centre, won’t need to pay a congestion charge.

What is the future of electric vehicles?

Electric cars are going to become a more and more common sight on the roads. The UK government has made a pledge to ban sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040, and car brands such as BMW, Volkswagen and Volvo have all promised to make more electric vehicles in the coming years. The increased research going into electric vehicles means that, as they are produced more frequently, they will get better and cheaper – and more accessible for a wider market. 

It isn’t just in the UK that we’ll see more electric vehicles, though:

  • Germany also plans to introduce a ban of sales of petrol and diesel cars in the future.
  • Denmark has more electric charging points than petrol stations.
  • Italy has exempted electric cars from annual circulation tax and ownership tax.

These initiatives show a real push from governments around Europe to encourage sales of electric vehicles and provide a cleaner method of transport. In fact, Norway’s market share of electric vehicles is a massive 49.1%, and the government wants to reach 100% by 2025. This has been achieved by heavy taxation of fossil fuels.

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