The Fascinating History of Electric Vehicles
I am continually amazed by the number of electric vehicles (EVs) that I see on the road today. When I was first asked to do research on EVs for Santee Cooper in 2016, I would see one about every month when going out for a drive. Now, four years later, I would be hard pressed to go onto any major highway or interstate without running into an EV somewhere along the way.
As surprising as it is to see all of these EVs on the road, electric cars are nothing new. In fact, the first electric “vehicle” was built almost 200 years ago in 1832, by Robert Anderson. Anderson, a Scotsmen, created a crude electric carriage, eliminating the need for a horse. About 60 years after Anderson’s invention, EVs made their way to the United States. William Morrison was the first to create an EV in the U.S. in 1889.
By the 1900s, EVs were becoming a hot commodity, making up about a third of the vehicles on the road from 1900 to 1910. Around this time, a couple of people you may have heard of started working on electric vehicle technology: Thomas Edison and Ferdinand Porsche. Edison, famous for his work on the light bulb, also spent a lot of time researching battery technology. His lab tried many different combinations and were able to come up with an effective nickel-iron battery that could be used in automobiles. Around the same time, Ferdinand Porsche (yes, that Porsche!) was creating the first hybrid-electric car, which used both battery and gas power.
Unfortunately for electric vehicles, Henry Ford had some different ideas. Thanks to Ford’s assembly line, the gas-powered Model T was being produced quickly and cheaply and started to eat up the market share of EVs. In addition, more crude oil was being discovered and the price was dropping, leading to the dominance of the internal combustion engine. For the next 80 to 100 years, different car companies would try their hand at creating an electric vehicle, but with cheap gas, limited EV infrastructure, and expensive batteries, it was hard to make the case for EVs.
In the early 1990s, new regulations created a renewed interest in the EV market. Vehicle manufacturers started modifying some of their popular models to have an electric alternative. In 2006, Tesla Motors was just a startup in Silicon Valley. When they announced that they were planning to make an EV with a range of more than 200 miles, it caught the attention of other vehicle manufacturers who decided to get to work on making EVs a reality again.
Cut forward to 2020, and Tesla has made good on their promise to create an EV that can go 200+ miles on a single charge. In fact, they have vehicles that can go 300+ miles on a single charge, and they aren’t the only ones! Tesla, Chevy, Nissan and Kia all offer electric cars that can travel more than 200 miles on a single charge while still costing less than $40,000. In total, there are currently 25 fully electric vehicle models and 29 hybrids on the market.
The 2020s look promising for EVs, and Santee Cooper is excited for all of the benefits of EVs that our customers can take advantage of. Customers with EVs can say goodbye to the days of looking around to see who has the cheapest gas prices. With no rate increases through 2024, Santee Cooper EV drivers can feel confident in the price they will pay to fuel their vehicle (in almost every case it’s cheaper than gas!). In addition to the rate freeze, Santee Cooper will be encouraging EV drivers to charge during off-peak periods, which helps keep electricity costs low for all customers. Customers can plug in when they get home, set up their level 2 charger to start charging at 11 p.m., and by the morning, their vehicle will be replenished and ready to go.
I’m a firm believer that EVs are here to stay. If you are interested in learning more, feel free to visit our EV webpage. There you will be able to find more info about EVs, types of EV charging, maps of charging stations, and more.