Believe it or not, electric cars have been around for a very long time. In the early 1900s, there were more electric cars than there were gasoline-powered cars. Back in the early 1920’s when vehicles were becoming more popular, gasoline was very expensive. It also was hard to start a gasoline engine; you had to turn and turn and turn a crank in front of the car to get it to start. There was no key to start the car like we have today.
Gasoline vehicles were also noisy and put out lots of smoke. The cars either had no mufflers, or the mufflers didn’t do a good job. So, electric vehicles were a big hit. At one time there were 50,000 of them on the roads and streets of the United States.
But electric cars soon faded away like the horse-drawn carriage. New ways to make gasoline cheaply were being discovered. A new invention called an electric starter was made. It started an electric car with a key instead of a crank. A gasoline car could go much farther than an electric one. So, gasoline-powered vehicles soon became the main method of transporting people.
Now that there is a push for cleaner “green” cars, electricity is once again being looked to as a way to help reduce greenhouse gases released into the air by gasoline and electric cars could be one of the answers to this problem.
Electric cars don’t burn gasoline in an engine. They use electricity stored on the car in batteries. Sometimes, 12 or 24 batteries, or more, are needed to power the car. Just like a remote-controlled, model electric car, electric cars have an electric motor that turns the wheels and a battery to run that motor.
To charge an electric car’s batteries, the car is usually plugged in at night. Some electric cars can plug right into a regular electrical wall outlet. Others need a larger outlet, like the kind that a stove or electric clothes dryer plug into. Electricity, is then stored in the batteries of the car.
The batteries can be lead acid batteries, like the batteries you find in our flashlight or in regular gasoline cars. Or they can be ni-cad (nickel-cadmium) like the kind that run portable video recorders or a portable video game player — only much larger. Better batteries that hold more energy and last longer are being developed. In 2001, by the time today’s fifth graders are ready to drive, electric cars should be able to travel 150 to 200 miles before recharging.
Car manufacturers and scientists are constantly coming up with new ways to fuel our vehicles in a cleaner, more environmentally friendly way. The production of the electric car is an exciting one that is being embraced by more and more people every year.