This post is originally from June 2014
Earlier in June, Tesla Motors, electric car company, released all their patents on designs and technology to the public. All the business folks out there were probably shocked at this decision; CEO Elon Musk must be crazy for giving up his greatest competitive advantage. I think the move is brilliant! It’s not like everyone is going to stop what they’re doing and start creating and developing the latest and greatest electric car. Maybe a lawnmower company uses it and creates an electric emissions free lawnmower or a boating company uses it to make a powerful and clean speedboat that leaves a great wake but no pollution in the lakes. Electric cars, it sounds futuristic, but electric cars have been around for a long time and at this point should just be thought of as another type of car on the road instead of a completely new breed.
In 1835 Thomas Davenport, a blacksmith out of Vermont, created what is known and considered to be the first electric motor with the capability of being mass-produced. Later in 1895, A. L. Ryker developed an electric tricycle and in 1891 William Morrison built an electric vehicle that could carry six people. As roadways developed in the early 1900s there was more demand for vehicles that could travel the longer distances from city to city. Charles Kettering invented an electric starter in 1912. Prior to this invention, electric vehicles required a hand crank to start them. Around the same time, Henry Ford designed and created an internal combustion engine vehicle for mass-production. Due to recently discovered oil reserves electric vehicles cost three times the amount as gasoline cars. The Great Depression followed making it difficult for electric vehicles to gain any kind of ground.
The 1960s saw one of the largest political actions toward environmentalism and sustainability. A company called Battronic Truck Company built an electric truck that could reach 25 mph for 62 miles carrying 2,500 pounds. In 1975 the United States Postal Service bought over 350 electric vehicles to use for delivery. These vehicles could go between 40 and 50 miles per hour with a range of 40 miles, probably a good distance for vehicles that are usually used around one or two towns. This support from the government helped encourage motor companies and entrepreneurs to create better and more efficient vehicles.
General Motors attempted an electric car and succeeded in the early 1990s with the EV1. They tried to include all the latest luxuries cars had to offer, while have the car hold a charge for enough miles to make the car still practical. They did not sell the car but instead leased so that GM would still own the car. From accounts shared in the documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car”, people loved the car. There were more than 1000 EV1s around the west coast during the 1990s and early 2000s. It seemed like GM created a car that was not only socially responsible but one that people also loved to drive. So why didn’t the EV1 take off? GM decided that the cost to produce the EV1 was too high to mass-produce and actually sell the car. GM collected all of the EV1s taking them to Arizona to crush them. The popularity of the EV1 shows that electric cars are not a trend but are cars that appeal to all types of people.
Regardless of whether or not you believe in climate change or what role humans have in contributing, the price of oil will continue to rise, while the quantity of oil will continue to decline. Electric cars are not only a way to give the United States energy independence, but also save the country billions of dollars on importing oil or drilling and searching for new reserves. Tesla Motors developed incredible technology and instead of using it to better one company, it can be used to better the world. Electric cars are not a new idea, but the idea of sharing technologies and innovations so that society can benefit, I would say that’s revolutionary and it’s a bandwagon we should all climb aboard.