The History of Battery Electric Vehicles

Battery Electric Vehicles or BEVs, predated the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles. It was between 1832-1839 that Robert Anderson, a Scottish businessman, invented the first electric carriage and Professor Sibrandus Stratingh from the Netherlands designed the first small-scale electric car which was built by his assistant Christopher Becker in 1835.

The storage battery improved, firstly by Gaston Planté, a French physicist who invented the lead acid cell in 1859 and the first rechargeable battery. Then, in 1881, Camille Faure developed a more efficient and reliable battery which became so successful in the early electric cars. This discovery caused battery electric vehicles to flourish, with France and Great Britain being the first nations to support widespread development of electric vehicles.

Prior to 1900, battery electric vehicles held many speed and distance records, the most notable of which, was the breaking of the 100 km/h (60 mph) speed barrier. It was by Camille Jenatzy on April 29, 1899 in a rocket-shaped vehicle named Jamais Contente (Never Happy) which reached a top speed of 105.88 km/h (65.79 mph).

During the early 20th Century, battery electric vehicles outsold gasoline powered vehicles and were successfully sold as town cars to upper-class customers. Because of technological limitations, these cars were limited to a top speed of about 32 km/h (20 mph). The cars were marketed as “suitable vehicles for women drivers”. Electric vehicles did not need hand-cranking to start.

One of the downfalls of the battery electric vehicle was the introduction of the electric starter in 1913. It simplified the task of starting an internal combustion engine which was previously difficult and dangerous to start with the crank handle. Another was the mass-produced and relatively cheap Ford Model-T. Finally, the loss of Edisons direct current electric power transmission system. He was battling with George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla over their desire to introduce alternating current as the principal electricity distribution. Edison’s direct current was the load for electric motors.

Battery electric vehicles were limited to niche applications. Forklift trucks were battery electric vehicles when introduced in 1923. BEV golf carts which were used as neighborhood electric vehicles and were partially “street legal”. By the late 1930s, the electric automobile industry had disappeared until the invention of the point contact transistor in 1947 which started a new era of electric vehicle.

In 1959 the Henney Kilowatt was introduced and was the world’s first modern transistor-regulated electric car and the predecessor to the more recent battery electric vehicles such as General Motors EV1. Only 47 Henney Kilowatts were produced, 24 being sold as 1959 models and 8 as 1960 models. It is not clear what happened to the other 15 built but it could be possible that they were sold as 1961 or 1962 models. None of the 8 1960 models were sold to the public because of the high manufacturing costs, but were sold to the electric cooperatives who funded the project.

It is estimated that there are between four and eight Henney Kilowatt battery electric vehicles still in existence with at least two of the survivors still driven periodically.

Battery electric vehicles have had issues with high battery costs, with limited travel distances, with charging time and the lifespan of the battery, although advancements in battery technology has addressed many of those problems.

At the present time, controversy reigns over battery electric vehicles. Campaigners, (et al) for BEV’s are accusing three major US automobile manufacturers of deliberately sabotaging BEV efforts through several methods, for instance, failing to market, failing to produce appropriate vehicles, by failing to satisfy demand and using lease-only programs with prohibitions against end of lease purchase.

In their defense, the three major manufacturers they have responded that they only make what the public want and the current trend is that the public doesn’t want battery electric vehicles.

Although we have the technology to manufacture and provide BEVs, one of the biggest downfalls for the prolific production of BEVs is the extortionate cost of replacement batteries. In some cases the cost of replacement batteries can be more than the price of the whole vehicle, especially when buying used battery electric vehicles.

How Are Electric Vehicles Charged?

Before buying an electric vehicle it is essential to gain familiarity with the necessary on-board equipment to prevent “charging” or, to use a current term, “top-up” problems.

It is important to check that the electric vehicle is fitted with a battery charger with a “standard” connection, i. e. suitable to draw electrical energy directly from ENEL’s grid and therefore from the power outlet in our garage. If it’s not then there is something wrong and you need to contact the seller.

This solution in the standard equipment fitted on an electric vehicle allows to charge the batteries in any place with mains electricity. Indeed electric cars have other various types of battery chargers. However, these do not allow to draw electricity from the mains supply but need special adapters or need to be connected directly to the charging points in service stations now available in large towns. The ideal solution is to have a battery charger on board the car with a high-frequency standard socket without the need to resort to external devices.

When taking into consideration an electric vehicle one needs to examine the costs to bear for the energy required to power the set of batteries. Models that allow to reduce energy costs are definitely the ones that allow to charge the batteries directly from the national domestic mains supply. Usually a full energy charge for a complete set of traction batteries for vehicles that draw energy directly from the mains supply does not cost more than 2 euros.

Vehicles fitted with a standard battery charger allow to optimise the time spent at home to charge the batteries. Indeed on average it takes 8 hours to fully charge a set of traction batteries. We recommend charging the entire set of batteries overnight, after the vehicle has been used during the day, in conjunction with the cheapest electricity tariff. It is also possible to charge the batteries for less time during the day for partial charges.

Partial charges do not result in problems affecting the runtime and/or efficiency of the set of batteries, as they are not subject to the memory effect. Precisely because they do not suffer from the memory effect, the set of batteries of electric vehicles has an average life of about 4 years.

A fully charged set of batteries of an electric vehicle allows for an uptime that varies between 70 and 100 km, depending on the model and set-up selected.

Electric Vehicles – Growing Presence on European Roads

With the cost of fuel skyrocketing around the world, and more consumers becoming conscious of the negative impact cars have on the environment, car manufacturers focus their production efforts on new full-electric vehicles as well as new hybrid models. Ford Motor Company has had development plans in the works for environmentally friendly vehicles to be increasingly prevalent on the roads for years-particularly in North America. As one of the many initiatives Ford is currently taking in the quest to provide the public with more fuel-efficient alternatives for vehicles, the company is promising to introduce five full-electric and hybrid vehicle models in Europe by the year 2013. This plan is part of Ford’s global electric vehicles plan. Electric and hybrid vehicles will greatly reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions as well as reduce fossil fuel consumption.

While protecting the environment should be at the forefront of what people look for in purchasing a new vehicle, the hybrid car movement is still rather new, and the full-electric vehicle is still somewhat of an abstract concept to many consumers. According to a survey done by consumer reports, price, range and overall performance are generally top considerations for most consumers in the market when buying a new vehicle. Another consideration for people who would possibly consider buying an electric vehicle, is the accessibility of electric charging stations-people are more likely to buy, if they know it would be easy to “charge up” the vehicle conveniently. Ford, however, has a vision to bring a wide range of top performing fuel-efficient, “green” vehicles to millions.

John Fleming, Chairman and CEO, Ford of Europe and Executive Vice President of Global Manufacturing and Labour Affairs, stated in a press release, “These new advanced technology models are key to Ford’s commitment to delivering a portfolio of alternative power train vehicles globally and to European customers in the next few years,”

The first full-electric car to be launched as part of Ford’s agenda is the Transit Connect Electric. This vehicle is a compact van, commonly used for workers that need to carry excessive cargo. The idea is that electric charging stations will be housed at the workplace for employees to charge-up before going on their route of daily work tasks. This full-electric vehicle was featured at the New York Auto Show in 2010. It is said to have a 40 KW, 300-volt Siemens electric motor, and a lithium-ion battery to power the vehicle for an estimated 120,000 miles total. With an 80-mile range, the Transit Connect Electric vehicle is said to be a “smooth, quiet ride” by a test driver. When connected to a 240-volt outlet, the vehicle would take six to eight hours to be fully charged.

The next car in Ford’s electric vehicle line up for its global electric vehicles plan will be the Ford Focus Electric, coming out in 2012. This vehicle will be powered 100 percent by lithium-ion batteries. The result of an all-battery powered vehicle is zero emissions. The range reaches 100 miles, and with a 220-volt outlet, takes six to eight hours to reach a full charge. The car will also have a handy interface which tells the driver specific details about the battery charge and range. The Focus is a compact electric vehicle with a modern exterior.

“Ford is committed to help lead the way to find creative solutions and ensure that electrified vehicles can deliver benefits to our customers, the environment and our business around the globe in a sustainable way,” stated Nancy Gioia, Ford Director of Global Electrification.

Ford will then launch two versions of the C-MAX-a hybrid-electric version and a plug-in hybrid-electric version-in 2013. The C-MAX will be the first hybrid-electric vehicle model launched in Europe, and the first model to utilize Ford’s new 1.6-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine. The traditional gas-fuelled C-MAX is a seven-seat vehicle that was launched in North America for the 2011 model year. A smaller version will be developed for the hybrid-electric and plug-in hybrid-electric versions releasing in Europe. The Ford plant in Valencia, Spain will be building the vehicles, which will be for the European market only. Fleming said, “The Hybrid-Electric and Plug-In Hybrid-Electric derivatives of the all-new Ford C-MAX are great news for the Valencia plant and region, for Spain, and for Ford customers across Europe.”

The last remaining hybrid-electric vehicle due to launch by 2013 is still yet to be determined. However, the launch of all five hybrid and electric vehicles have caused much hype since Ford originally announced its plan.