In the early 1900s, three different technologies – petrol, electricity and steam – dominated the American automotive market. Gasoline cars are cheaper, better, and can go far beyond their electric counterparts. But a new analysis suggests that the real reason is different: a lack of infrastructure to support electric cars.

In turn, that story today has the potential to transform gasoline into electric vehicles and reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with transportation.

“Many electric cars are better now (in terms of climate),” says Joseph Talby, a team of economics researchers at the University of Lund in Sweden. Ensuring the transfer of technology from fossil fuels requires political will to provide a wide range of infrastructure.

Talby and his colleague Hannah Nielsen, a graduate researcher at the University of Lund, analyzed the database of more than 36,000 passenger car models made in the United States between 1895 and 1942. , Roads, gasoline availability, and power plants.

This allowed the researchers to develop a mathematical model in which carmakers could decide what type of car to build. And that careful consideration of the characteristics of cars made in the early 1900s calls into question the common sense as to why petrol cars dominated, say the researchers. The power of nature.

Electric cars were expensive on average, but that was mostly because they were high-end models targeting the market segment. When the researchers monitored performance and other characteristics, the cost of electric vehicles was equal to that of gasoline cars. In addition, gasoline and electric cars had similar operating conditions, which extended roughly between the 1890s and the mid-1910s.

Instead, the analysis shows that electric car manufacturers are in areas where electricity is already available and the generating capacity is rapidly expanding.

Road infrastructure has also changed: Due to their heavy batteries, electric cars do not drive well on poor roads, which are often found in rural areas. Thus, electric car models did their best in urban areas with densely populated networks.

But perhaps a century ago, the dominance of petrol cars was due to the slow development of electrical infrastructure, the researchers said. They predicted what would happen if electricity networks expanded rapidly for 15 or 20 years – in 1912 or 1922 if electricity levels were reached in 1902. This rapid electrical process could have been a major factor in the development of electric cars. Transportation, especially in urban areas.

Today, a similar lack of infrastructure is hampering the widespread adoption of electric cars – consumers do not want to buy charging stations until they expand, companies do not want to build charging stations until they are sure there will be more people. Buying electric cars.

According to Nielsen, the government has a role to play in ensuring the distribution of charging points for electric vehicles. He said electric vehicles will be the default means of transportation in the future and we need to create this environment so that they can act in accordance with consistent policies and messages. The worst thing that can be done is to stop and go without wasting any resources on technology that will not stop the consumer and the manufacturer.

Source: Talby J and H. Nelson. The role of energy infrastructure in the early adoption of electric and gasoline cars. The power of nature 2021