TMC is an independent, primarily volunteer organization that relies on ad revenue to cover its operating costs. Please consider whitelisting TMC on your ad blocker or making a Paypal contribution here: paypal.me/SupportTMC

General History?

Discussion in 'Tesla Motors' started by tonybelding, Jun 14, 2007.

  1. tonybelding

    tonybelding Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2006
    Messages:
    1,091
    Location:
    Hamilton, Texas
    After all this talk about the (brief, thus far) history of Tesla Motors, I had to wonder if anybody has written a more general history of the electric car? Chris Paine gave us a look at one small-but-important episode with his movie.

    Prior to last summer, the only thing I knew about electric cars was that GM had made one -- and I mostly remembered that because Johnny Carson joked on The Tonight Show about naming the car "Impact". I also vaguely remembered reading somewhere once that batteries didn't store enough energy in a given mass for an electric car to be practical. That was it, that was all I knew.

    Now since I've started paying attention to the subject, I've learned about so many past efforts that I never imagined. I mean, starting with the Henny Kilowatt. . . Commutacar. The Amectran EXAR-1. Tropica. Bradley. Solectria. Corbin Sparrow. The Zytek Elise. Eliica. Not to mention the homebrew scene, electric drag racing with NEDRA, the Formula LIghtning races, Challenge Bibendum, the Solar Challenge. . . .

    Like much of history, the closer you look the more stories you find.

    A search of Amazon turned up one book (by Curtis D. Anderson) claiming to be a general history of electric cars, and it's expensive and has very little in the way of reader reviews. I might spring for it anyhow.
     
  2. vfx

    vfx Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2006
    Messages:
    14,792
    Location:
    CA CA
    I am currently (!) reading two books on electric cars; The first, "The Electric Car and the Burden of History" is an incredibly dry read with (so far) discussions on Electric batteries and the electric taxi services in major metropolitan areas back east in 1893 etc. There is much talk about smarmy business practices poor decisions, and bad timing and how they were all part of the Ev's demise. This book tastes like chalk.

    My favorite parts describe the taxi company facilities with mechanical (and some hydraulic) carrousel rigs that replaced hundreds of pounds of batteries in minutes. Once you read this it is overwhelming to not to post on the Tesla blog every time someone suggests battery-swapping -something I thought was brilliant when Dan Neil first suggested it to me at a party.

    The other book is an exciting (but frustrating in content) read by Edwin Black. "Internal Combustion" is very well researched and a well-written account (so far) of the history of fuel (wood, coal, oils) and the scams that accompanied the fledging battery business in the late 1800's. This one is tasty chili.

    I'm about a third into both books and what is fascinating is the myriad of parallels in EV development back then to those that are going on now. I can relate to the helplessness of the Victorian pro-EV minority and constantly think about what I can do to help today’s rebirth succeed.

    In my Amazon shopping cart I have "Taking Charge: The Electric Automobile in America" by Michael Brian Schiffer. I'd also like to read the EV1 birth book but I'm waiting to finish the two listed above before moving on.
     
  3. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2006
    Messages:
    17,252
    Location:
    Silicon Valley
    I recently read "Forward Drive" which I would recommend. It has a fairly well researched history of EVs included.
    It also has a close look into the state of Fuel Cell research circa year 2000 which (in hindsight now) was way too optimistic.

    I think it is out of print now, but I found a used copy through Amazon.

    http://www.amazon.com/Forward-Drive-Build-Clean-Future/dp/1578050359

    -------

    Let me know what you think of "Taking Charge" once you read it.
     
  4. tonybelding

    tonybelding Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2006
    Messages:
    1,091
    Location:
    Hamilton, Texas
    I got that book.  Yes, it is very dry, although there are a few good bits.  

    The older electrics were basically what we today would call NEVs.  I'm much more interested in the "modern" electric cars, starting with the Henny Kilowatt in 1958.  It was the first transistor-based electric car, and it reputedly could hit 60 MPH.  And of course, by then the dominance of the gas car was long established, so there's a quixotic aspect of trying to challenge it.
     
  5. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2006
    Messages:
    17,252
    Location:
    Silicon Valley
  6. vfx

    vfx Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2006
    Messages:
    14,792
    Location:
    CA CA
    I just said that!
     
  7. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2006
    Messages:
    17,252
    Location:
    Silicon Valley
  8. tonybelding

    tonybelding Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2006
    Messages:
    1,091
    Location:
    Hamilton, Texas
    One entry in particular caught my eye. . . .

    1903: First speeding ticket – it was earned in an EV.

    A Google search turned up various claims for the "worlds first speeding ticket" from as early as 1896 and as late as 1910. There may be many others that I didn't find with a quick random search. (To be fair, the one from 1910 might be the oldest surviving ticket, as they have a photo of it!)
     
  9. tonybelding

    tonybelding Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2006
    Messages:
    1,091
    Location:
    Hamilton, Texas
    Electric and Hybrid Cars

    I got Electric and Hybrid Cars: A History, by Judy Anderson and Curtis D. Anderson.

    It's a strange book. The authors almost seem to have a case of cognitive dissonance: cheering for the electric car while simultaneously listing all the reasons why it will never be viable. Even though the book was published in 2005, it already seems outdated and was clearly written in the B.T. (Before Tesla) era.

    The whole book is tinted with negative assumptions: that the public won't accept the inconvenience of plugging in a car (as opposed to what, the joys of going to the gas station?), that the public won't willingly give up their beloved gas cars for slow and limited electrics, that improvements in battery technology are not coming any time soon, that hydrogen fuel cells are the technology of the (near) future, and so forth.

    The change in attitudes toward hydrogen in a short time are particularly striking. This book basically praises CARB for dropping their stubborn insistence on BEVs and accepting instead the bountiful promise of hydrogen fuel cells -- almost a diametric opposite of prevailing views today. It seems whenever the subject of hydrogen is raised these days, everybody piles on with ridicule and hostility. (And the view on ethanol seems to be rapidly going the same direction.)
     
  10. AGR

    AGR Member

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2007
    Messages:
    202
    I got a ride in a prototype "electric mail truck" many years ago. There have been many attempts through the years to arrive at a viable electric vehicle. The batteries were / are the challenge.

    Its similar to VHS / Betamax - Electric Vehicle / Gas Vehicle, at that time VHS carried the day, and Gas Vehicles did the same.

    With increased awareness towards climate change - global warming - carbon emissions - price of gas -an alternate to the ICE to power our vehicles is closer ot becoming a reality. Even if society at large is aware that change is required - is society prepared to pay for it?

    Toyota has utilised its corporate resources to raise the level of awareness towards hybrids, and although several manufacturers have hybrid versions, by now most folks interpret hybrid with a Prius. Even Toyota had to go through a learning curve once the early adopters got their Prius. Their recent annoucement of keeping NiMh batteries confirms that a parellel hybrid is expensive, Toyota is probably not making money, or very little. More important the average consumer is not prepared to pay the "full price differential" of an hybrid compared to a car with an ICE.

    In North America emission regulations changed on January 1, 2007 for heavy duty truck with diesel motors, they require a form of catalytic converter, and EGR system raising the price of a truck by several thousands. Yes...they all bought a truck in 2006.

    GM with the Volt is going the route of a series hybrid, with a small ICE, and small lithium battery pack, to keep the price down, and have an acceptable range in a variety of conditions. Its not on the market yet. At one time GM must have had the most extensive electric knowledge base with the EV-1.

    Honda last week annopunced that they were getting out of the parallel hybrid business, and directing their attention / resources to diesels.

    The majority of the all elctric vehicles that exist are mostly conversions of an existing model, or are some hideous creation, or are the neighborhood low speed vehicles. Tesla has done more than a lot of companies to raise the awareness of electric cars.

    Electric vehicles that have market appeal for the "average consumer" are still an "upstream swim" from JD Power in May 2007 the average price of an average vehicle sold in the US to the average customer was $27,182. Its started, there are thousands of vehicles with electric motors in them, mostly hybrid but electric motors nevertheless, it will continue.

    IMHO the history of electric vehicles is NOW.
     
  11. tonybelding

    tonybelding Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2006
    Messages:
    1,091
    Location:
    Hamilton, Texas
    The batteries were the challenge.  But now that has changed.  The batteries that exist today are good enough.  I'm not saying they won't improve, or that further improvements aren't welcome, or that the price doesn't need to come down. . .   But battery performance has crossed a line into the realm of adequacy.  Price is something to be addressed from the manufacturing side, it's not a technology problem as such.

    I would have said it's similar to VHS tape versus LaserDisc.  VHS tape was wildly more popular, but it never quite managed to kill LD because there were simply things LD could do that were impossible with tape.

    The stone age didn't end because we ran out of stones, and automobiles didn't replace horses because of a widespread shortage of hay.  Electrics will win when they are faster, cleaner and quieter, more convenient and more enjoyable to drive than gasoline-powered cars.  That could happen pretty soon, if the Tesla Roadster is any indicator.

    Toyota is a very conservative company.  The Prius was really out of character for them, it was only due to a couple of historical accidents that they produced it.  I don't expect Toyota to fare well in an innovative environment, which is what's now shaping up.  The same is true for Honda.  The Japanese companies have flourished during an era of little real automotive innovation or technology advances.  I suspect they'll soon be left behind.
     
  12. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2006
    Messages:
    17,252
    Location:
    Silicon Valley
    I had just been thinking how people like to portray GM as "out of it", and Toyota as "with it".
    But, yes, I have seen signs over the years that Toyota is the same kind of big over bloated gorilla, mired in bureaucracy, run by bean counters that don't really understand the consumer. But then they periodically do something that surprises me. Yes, the sheer number of innovations in the Prius was surprising. But the MR-Spyder was also a big surprise. They somehow got out of their normal design process that made somewhat overweight cars. The "skunk works" (of sorts) team that produced the MR-Spyder (and last Celica) were given a lot of leeway to do thing differently. I think the government in Japan has a more direct role with car companies there then the US government does with car companies here. Toyota sometimes does surprising things because they are told to do so at the highest levels.

    By the way, the concept of Hybrid vehicles is nothing new

    There is an interesting history of the Prius Here
    ..."Toyota is capable of breaking its own rules when it needs to."...
     
  13. Iz

    Iz EVs are here to stay

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2006
    Messages:
    1,074
    Location:
    New York
    CAFE standards for US automakers are an example of the government trying to do the right thing. We know mpg’s have not improved much in the past 20 years. Too many lobbying dollars involved.

    Toyota does have some lobbying of the Japanese government. It is however focused more on selling to other markets such as China, rather than product design.

    so... was a reason ever given for the removal of those solar panels off the white house roof in 1981?
     
  14. vfx

    vfx Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2006
    Messages:
    14,792
    Location:
    CA CA
    " Electric and Hybrid Cars: A History"

    Have not read it but I guess someone writing a book on Electric Cars does not have to like them. And maybe even likes the idea of a hydrogen based transportation model.

    I admit back when I first heard about the glories of hydrogen (no pollution, water vapor unlimited supply) I was totally for it. Later I met and EV-angilest who introduced me to the perpetual hydrogen future.

    The conspiracist in me says Curtis and Judy were working for the MAN !!...
     
  15. vfx

    vfx Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2006
    Messages:
    14,792
    Location:
    CA CA
    This is the area I am most outspoken about EVs. Delivery trucks should all be EVs. There should be legislation demanding this.

    With delivery trucks they know exactly how many miles they drive every day. The batteries can be taylored to the routes.

    I also belive all the Electric Companies across North America shoud also be required to make most of their fleets EVs as well.

    And I also think that Hawaii should go virtually all electric tool.

    -end rant
     
  16. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2006
    Messages:
    17,252
    Location:
    Silicon Valley
    One of the biggest "wins" for both EVs and Hybrids are the use of regen braking.

    Any kind of delivery truck, or taxicab makes frequent stops and starts, so regen is really useful there.
    It helps efficiency, and avoids wearing down the friction brakes.

    One may want to study what they do with Diesel/electric trains for more ideas.
     
  17. AGR

    AGR Member

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2007
    Messages:
    202
    UPS and Fedex have hybrid trucks for some of their routes. Miles Automotive sells electric low speed vehicles for institutional use.

    You make a valid point that most delivery vehicles especially mail - courier - parcel operate over set routes, and it would be easy to have a battery pack to do the route.

    An overview of what UPS is using in their ground fleet http://www.sustainability.ups.com/environmental/fuel/ground.html#characteristics Fedex is doing the same http://www.fedex.com/us/about/responsibility/environment/hybridelectricvehicle.html?link=4

    The hybrid system from Eaton http://truck.eaton.com/hybrid.htm that Fedex is using and Peterbilt is also using for Wal Mart trucks.

    Hybrid buses http://www.isecorp.com/ there is a lot of information on this site.
     
  18. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2006
    Messages:
    17,252
    Location:
    Silicon Valley
  19. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2006
    Messages:
    17,252
    Location:
    Silicon Valley

Share This Page