Electric Cars – An Old Idea For A New World

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When people hear the term Electric Cars the first thing that pops to mind is usually Tesla or Prius. But the world’s first electric could actually be found all the way back in 1901.

At top speeds of 25mph, the Baker Electric Car was the first of its kind and a trailblazer in electric auto motion. By 1920 there were 15,000 electric cars in the city of New York alone.

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Given the strong worldwide focus on reducing greenhouse gasses (GHG), it would be a fair question to ask why electric vehicles didn’t become more popular sooner.

The answer lies in an unfortunate quirk of marketing.

Given the clean, quiet nature of electric cars compared to steam engines, the Baker Electric was primarily marketed to women.

The ease with which electric cars could be operated and the lack of need for a crankshaft to start the engine made electric cars an attractive proposition to women of the time.

The interiors were often decorated in the manner of a middle-class living room – flowers posed in vases inside the car, grand clock-faces kept the driver abreast of the time, and the seats, rather than being dark leather, were furnished with bright, colorful fabrics that one would still find on couches and settees today.

While conspiracy theories abound concerning the influence of the big oil companies, it seems the reason for the electric car’s lack of popularity can be laid at the door of its original marketers.

By the time the electric car had grown in terms of cost-effectiveness and speed, it was already considered to be merely a car for women.

Aesthetics are often key in marketing (as well as every other aspect of life), and the sad fact is that the electric car suffered from an effeminate reputation.

A gas-powered car had the dirty, spluttering roar of the engine; it was loud, it was brash, it was bold. It was a signal to the world, not only of your wealth but of your grit and technological know-how.

Today, GHG emissions have triggered a chain-reaction in global politics.

China has vowed to ban all gas-powered cars by 2020.

Britain and France have promised to ban the manufacture and sale of petrol-based cars by 2040.

Ford, once the pioneers of gasoline cars are increasing their electric car production by hundreds of thousands each year, the latest model in their range is an electric version of the iconic Ford Focus.

The Tesla Roadster recently shot into space by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, may well become a mainstay of our roads in years to come, as well as our solar system.

At the moment, there is still some concern over the electronic car industry’s ability to generate self-sustaining profits without the help of government subsidies. The production plants which produce electric cars are still more costly per unit than their petroleum counterparts, even if the road and fuel costs are cheaper.

Electronic cars are nothing new and have been around since the time of King Edward. But in these new and volatile economic times, it seems that old ideas are finally coming to the forefront.

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