electric automobile

Battery-powered motor vehicle.

Originating in the 1880s, electric cars were used for private passenger, truck, and bus transportation in cities, where their low speeds and limited battery range were not drawbacks, and the cars became popular for their quietness and low maintenance costs. Until 1920 they were competitive with gasoline-fueled cars; they became less so after the electric self-starter made gasoline-powered cars more attractive and mass production made them cheaper to produce. In Europe electric vehicles have been used as short-range delivery vans. Renewed interest in electric cars beginning in the 1970s, spurred especially by new consciousness of foreign oil dependency and environmental concern, led to improvements in speed and range. Recent laws, particularly in California, have mandated commercial production. "Hybrid" cars employing both electric and internal combustion engines and providing the best features of both technologies, have recently become commercially available. Experimental vehicles have used solar fuel cells.

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      battery-powered motor vehicle, originating in the late 1880s and used for private passenger, truck, and bus transportation.

      Through the early period of the automotive industry until about 1920, electric automobiles were competitive with petroleum-fueled cars particularly as luxury cars for urban use and as trucks for deliveries at closely related points, for which the relatively low speed and limited range, until battery recharge, were not detrimental. Electrics, many of which were steered with a tiller rather than a wheel, were especially popular for their quietness and low maintenance costs. Ironically, the death knell of the electric car was first tolled by the Kettering (Kettering, Charles F.) electrical self-starter, first used in 1912 Cadillacs and then increasingly in other gasoline-engine cars. Mass production, led by Henry Ford (Ford, Henry), also reduced the cost of the nonelectrics. Electric trucks and buses survived into the 1920s, later than passenger cars, especially in Europe.

      Electric automobile prototypes reappeared in the 1960s when major U.S. manufacturers, faced with ultimate exhaustion of petroleum-based fuels and with immediate rising fuel costs from the domination of Arab petroleum producers, once again began to develop electrics. Both speed and range were increased, and newly developed fuel cells offered an alternative to batteries; but by the mid-1980s electric automobiles had not become a part of the automotive industry's output. Most industrial in-plant carrying and lifting vehicles, however, were electrically powered.

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Universalium. 2010.

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