This article is part of a short series. You can find Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.
How far we have gone
Electric cars once dominated (about 1900), but battery technology at the time was not really needed by most drivers. Once Cadillac began installing electric motors in their cars, there was a drastic reduction in gas-powered cars, and the EVs did not compete for more than 100 years.
In 1955, photovoltaic cells were a joke. Hard work was being done to keep them from making jokes, and it had been going on for decades. They had a hint of usefulness for only a year.
When William William Cobby built a self-driving test truck in 1955, he did not know what would happen next. Apparently, he had hoped for something good, but 30 years later, he had no idea that people inspired by the small project would build a cross-country vehicle. He had no idea that people would compete in solar-powered cars and that a winning car would lead to a two-stage revolution in the market.
The birthplace of the great grandparents of modern Evis
If we want to understand the roots of modern EVs, there is something else we need to consider. The first step back to EV was not really battery technology. It was efficient.
Before the 1970’s, efficient vehicles were no longer needed. Gasoline was cheap, and most people did not know it would hurt. For most people, having a large, blocking, glowing vehicle in the United States was not a problem. Even when things changed, people took some big knocks to get out of that trap.
Although the oil crises of 1973 and 1979 changed their minds. Of course, many people today do not want to change their ways, but those crises were enough for a small, efficient car market. American motorists struggled to change lanes, and when they found their feet, they headed for the “era of cars.”
Once they start taking action (oil injections have contributed to this), experiments like Fioro, solar radiation, impact and EV1 have taken place. American companies struggled, but that struggle once again led to new and innovative companies.
In many ways, the end of this first modern EVS period (marked by the death of EV1) I would call the second period of mourning. The cars were not as rusty as the late 70’s, but American manufacturers were pleased. Front-wheel drive drives have become the biggest and most inefficient SUVs Americans long for.
In many other markets, the 2008 financial crisis has taken Americans and people back to their senses. Efficiency was restored, and EVs reappeared without strict government orders.
The sun is about to strike the desert
The modern EV era began on the back of solar cars, with manufacturers turning to non-solar EVs, realizing that the solar power on board was not economical. But, that is in the process of change.
Today’s solar cells, which we take for granted, are now about 20% efficient. That means 20% of the solar energy will be hit by electricity, but the rest is not. In the 1980s, the best experimental and expensive solar cells were around 20%, but today the best cells on the market are over 24%. Once a wild experiment, it is now common in large markets.
Still, every time I write an article about a company like Aptera or Sono Motors, many readers want to tell us how it never works. Placing solar panels to make a significant contribution to a car’s drive can never produce enough energy. The idea that a vehicle “never charges an electric vehicle” is not something that most people think will ever happen.
But like the solar panels of the 1980’s, it can quickly surprise those who do not follow the technology. The Aptera’s most efficient design can be added to the vehicle at a distance of 40 miles per day just by keeping it in the sun. Sono says their solar panels can increase by 70 miles a week. Those are not surprising numbers, but they are enough to cover the daily grind of many people and give them “rolling miles” even in battery packs.
We are in the process of making solar cars a reality for the whole market. Just as battery technology has allowed the EVI revolution to take place over the past decade, so has solar technology.
Where are we going – expect a tour of here and there
Seeing where we came from can also tell us much about where we are going.
It is challenging to imagine that the EVY Revolution will be a good and easy exit here from 2021 to 2030 and 2040. Things are looking good for EVs now, but they seemed to be doing great in 1999. EVs will basically go away in the next few years, but it would be foolish to think that there will be no obstacles along the way.
I’m not saying I know what those obstacles will be, but I have a few assumptions.
One possible issue is the government’s support for EVs. The EVs are very entrenched since 1999, so that doesn’t kill them, but the rate of adoption may be affected by the government’s commitment to them.
Battery supplies can also be a problem. It is very possible to make enough cells for everyone, but manufacturers who do not expect to maintain their supply may not have enough supply to sell enough EVs. Again, this will slow down the transition and will not stop. It can also lead to the subsequent electrification of ships and the actual adoption of EV. Hybrids and plug hybrids are better than direct gas, but they could put brakes on a larger adoption.
Whatever the snare, we must be careful not to be discouraged.
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