Electric Cars: The Fortunes of the Technology and the Fortunes Made

Electric cars are one of the top technology trends today with Tesla becoming a buzzword.  But the first inventions related to them date back to the first half of the 19th century. Actually, they appeared even before the vehicles with the internal combustion engine. In the first years of the 20th century it seemed that the future of automotive transport belongs to them but the development in the motor cars using fuel changed things. They had longer driving ranges and that became important when the road infrastructure improved and people drove for longer distances, and faster.  Petroleum was a cheaper source of energy for a car than electricity. Furthermore, the motor cars became more affordable after the introduction of Ford’s T-model. These and other advances in motor automotive technology spelled trouble for the commercial viability of the electric cars. They have almost gone out of production with just some specialised types of electric vehicles, like golf carts or forklift trucks, having come into use. For the following decades, fuel cars became the standard of automotive transport.

The global energy problems in the 1960s and 70s reignited the interest in electric cars. The American astronauts who landed on the moon drove in an electric buggy. A sort of unintended advertising message which draws public attention to the idea of cars running on electricity. Nonetheless, despite such a revival of interest in electric cars they did not become an item of mass production. There were several reasons. First of all, lack of high energy capacity but low-cost batteries. Low speed and low range remained a disadvantage. Nonetheless, the idea of cars running on electric batters did not die out. In the 1990s, the interest in electric cars resurged again due to environmental concerns. There were experiments with particular models but only in 1997 Toyota started production of Prius which was a hybrid petrol-electric car.

July 31st, 1971: American astronaut in an electric buggy on the moon.

This was a car model launched for mass production. Still, it was not yet a purely electric car. A fuel-based engine was still necessary to make a car truly practical. Battery technology was in need of a dramatic improvement to help electric cars become viable. In 1973 the idea of the lithium battery was proposed and that was a beginning of the major development. It took time for this type of battery to be further developed to become useful. The 1990s saw major advances in that technology, preparing a launching ground for the electric car industry. But it again took an inventive talent to give a start to the breakthrough in the electric car industry as we know it today.

It began with a small start-up company in which Tesla announced the production of a luxury electric car in 2006. It could drive for 245 miles on a single charge and reach 200 miles per hour. That sounded astounding for an electric car. The US government provided a big loan taking into consideration the environmentally friendly character of the new car. Other Tesla models followed and charging stations were built all over the United States. In the second decade of the 21st century, electric car production became a growing industry, and its growth is accelerating. Of course, the concerns about the environment spur this process.

A 2006 Tesla Roadster.

The U.S. market share of plug-in electric passenger cars increased from 0.14% in 2011 to a record rate of 2.1% in 2018!

Just back in 2008, when Tesla released its first electric car not many people knew about it. But nowadays, news channels and the stock market have become abundant with Tesla updates. Tesla has risen to a global level. Elon Musk, the founder and the creative mind of the company, was little known in the early years of Tesla. Today he is one of the most famous people in the world and has even begun to appear in memes! Tesla cars have acquired many fans, but it was not only users who benefitted. Speak about the investors. Tesla shares have grown for some years but at a modest pace and were flat for some periods. But investors who had faith in the brand and the talents behind it were rewarded in 2020 when Tesla shares skyrocketed by more than 700%! Despite its insane growth, one analyst gives Tesla a $7,000 price target, even though it costs just $660 now (to be fair, one should note other analysts predict a crash in Tesla shares). Now, the leading car companies like Volskwagen and BMW have begun producing and designing new electric cars.

However, Tesla is not the only electric company. Several Chinese electric car makers have begun to rise to significance, notably LI Auto, NIO and Xpeng motors. Although they are still young companies, they could have huge potential for the future. Let’s not forget that China is a huge and growing market. Furthermore, the Chinese government will not hesitate to provide support for such an advanced and promising technology as electric cars.  In fact, the NIO stock price has risen more than 1,000% year to date! One could question if these early companies can become future Teslas and if they could dominate the electric car industry in the future. They have serious hurdles to overcome. Still, let’s not forget that we are witnessing a true revolution in the automotive industry. Some countries are already announcing the years when they will completely substitute the present diesel and petroleum cars with electric cars. The scale of the change is breath-taking. Investing at the beginning, (while making right choices, of course), can make one a millionaire.

Tamerlan Asadov

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