By Rod Ward
The electric vehicle (EV) carries its power source on board, rather than obtaining power from wires or rails. It has come back into fashion: in the early days of the motor car there were ten times as many manufacturers of EVs in the USA as there were of internal combustion engined vehicles.
The story of the EV is told in this book, with a listing of most known makers. In the early days luxury electric limousines, taxis and petrol-electric buses were produced, followed in the middle years by modest battery-electric milk floats, but the 21st century has seen a whole new world of electric and hybrid vehicles. The first World Land Speed Records were set by Jeantaud and Jenatzy in electric cars, and an electric Bluebird is breaking records today, driven by the grandson of Donald Campbell. Electric power is used at all levels of transportation, from massive diesel-electric power units used in railway locomotives and earthmoving equipment, down to bicycles with a tiny electric motor and solar panels. Everyday EV uses include invalid scooters, golf carts and milk floats, but a new generation of electric city cars includes the G-Whiz and hybrids like the Toyota Prius, fashionable with Hollywood celebrities. A new ‘problem’ is that EVs are so silent that pedestrians don’t hear them coming. Artificial engine noise may have to be added for safety reasons. This book does not set out to propagandise the future of electric propulsion for road vehicles, though it seems likely that its use will grow in future. The environmental and energy issues are complex and some are contradictory. Recharging from the electricity mains still means that pollution must be produced at power stations, though possibly at a lower and less widespread level than from petrol or diesel exhausts. We can see, however, that finally major car manufacturers are taking EVs of all kinds seriously, so there is a totally new perception of the EV in the 21st century.