Living Sustainably
in the shadow of climate change

July 2014
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Electric vehicles are nothing new
Filed under: General, Electric Vehilces, Our Chevy Volt
Posted by: Guy @ 10:34 pm

While I have to admit I am very pleased and proud to own a Chevy Volt -  a vehicle that has achieved the highest customer satisfaction ratings for a production vehicle for the last two years - I do feel incumbent to remind people that electric vehicles are nothing new. The Baker Electric vehicle was introduced in the early 1900s and was a very popular vehicle with women who found it much more amenable to drive due to the lack of stick shift that required double clutching which required lot of fancy footwork.  Thomas Edison purchased one of the first Baker electrics as his first vehicle, and proceeded to redesign the battery to improve the range.   With a top speed of around 25 mph and nominal 100 mile range, drivers were thrilled with this silent and elegant (for its day) vehicle.

Jay Leno  owns 4 electric vehicles in his extensive collection, and has a fully restored Baker which he drives quite often in the Hollywood Hills. Here’s a video showing him demonstrating and driving it.

So in today’s world where we are celebrating the wonders of the new Tesla automobiles, Nissan  Leaf, Chevy Volt and others I think we need to remember that electric vehicles are more than 100 years old at this point at all we have done is make incremental improvements in the design.

6 Responses to “Electric vehicles are nothing new”

  1. RJ Says:
    Interesting. 100 mile range in 1909. Of course our highway system demands high speed transport which dictates size and safety. Plus our affordable housing usually means longer commutes. From what I understand, even the affordable Volt has to engage the generator around 60 mph. I think we need 200 mile electric car range, fast chargers at the current gas stations (wonder what the Oil Companies would price electricity at?), and we need to maintain a $32k net cost in today’s dollars. Then we need to ensure the battery systems easily last ten years and are reasonably priced when replaced. I suspect we are there on car technology, almost there on fast battery charging issues but will need government action to provide widespread charging stations without being gouged. Finally, what would happen to the countries generation capacity if 50% of the cars were full electric?
  2. Guy Says:
    Corrections: [1] The Volt runs in all electric up to 100MPH and only uses the on-board 50KW generator when the battery runs below 20% capacity. [2] The Tesla model S does have a 250-300 mile range - at a price of $50-100K, and [3]they have begun deploying FREE ultra fast chargers (300 miles in 1 hour) across the country so you can drive from LA to SF etc. [4]ALL hybrids and EVs warrant their batteries for at least 8 years. We had the battery in our old 2001 Honda insight replaced under warranty at 103K miles. As we add more EVs, we need to increase distributed renewable micro generators as I have done with my 5.2KW solar array that charges the Volt with power to spare in the summer months.
  3. RJ Says:
    I agree the Tesla S is a great car with range but we need a similar model for $32k. We need low cost battery technology so that the Tesla equivalent did not incur a $10k to $15k hit when the batteries do need replacement, thus maintaining the investment and resale value. It seems full electric cars should be good for 20 years without the wear issues of an internal combustion engine and the simplified transmission. My previous and now corrected “understanding” on the 60mph limit was based on a a Volt owner here in Texas, but they may have been misinformed or perhaps they do not employ a proper driving technique (excessive acceleration or ac use?) I do think the oil companies would need some “guidance” if and when full electric vehicles are manufactured and sold to a mass audience, especially if it cut into their market.
  4. Guy Says:
    The battery industry are doing everything they can to improve the cost/performance of traction batteries. I have faith they will get there eventually. Eventually prices will drop for EVs. Let’s face it, if the fossil fuel companies continue business as usual humanity is doomed. Global warming is already killing thousands of people a year via floods, droughts, famine etc. and this is just the beginning. Somehow we have to figure out how to stop using fossil fuels.
  5. AC Points Says:
    Do you envision a future where only the rich have personal transportation and everyone else uses public transportation and self powered transportation?
  6. Guy Says:
    AC - while enhanced public transportation is a lofty goal, I think realistic implementation still has significant hurdles on a global scale. That is why I am putting my money where my mouth is and driving an electric vehicle. It’s a transitional step away from a fossil fueled world.