Nissan LEAF (and electric vehicle) 101

by Ernie Hernandez on August 6, 2010

1912 Detroit Electric car

1912 Detroit Electric car

We thought that with the pending launch of the Nissan LEAF, perhaps a little history would be in order. We do not wish to bore you to tears, so we will just highlight some of the milestones with references to additional sources for those who wish to view them.

Defining the very first electric car is somewhat difficult, as their were no cars at all back then. We are talking about the mid- to early-1800′s, and contrary to popular belief, the US is not at the center of the automotive world. Many in Europe fashioned electric-powered transportation about the same time that its development occurred in the US. Somewhere in the mid-1800′s though seems to be about where the first electric car was likely to have been born. Here is a link to one published timeline of the EV.

One interesting bit of history – the first recorded world land speed record (and many subsequent to that) was set by an electric vehicle. Also according to this reference, electric vehicles have clocked speeds of over 300 mph.

Electric vehicles found significant support into the early 1900′s. They were quiet, easier to operate than more complex gasoline engined vehicles, and did not have the delay of steam-powered vehicles which needed to wait for the creation of the steam to power them. With the advent of better roads and the Model T in 1908, the cost of a gasoline powered vehicle came down, and the shorter range of electric vehicles became a compromising factor.

Fast forward to relatively modern times. Easily the most significant vehicle that raised the public’s awareness of the electric vehicle again was the GM EV1. Launched in 1996 the EV1 found great supporters among its owners and few among its makers. The EV experiment failed, according to General Motors, and we would see no real further effort in that direction by GM until the Volt. GM though must be credited for raising the awareness of the EV among some who had never heard of an electric vehicle before. While the Volt is not a “true” electric vehicle, our next LEAF 101 installment will discuss current EV variants.

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