What is a car? A car is a box that supports human travel through the interaction of the engine and wheel. The innovation in the understanding of engines and wheels leads to the derivative called the car, which has promoted mobility for consumers worldwide. For the average American, a car represents a range of emotions and actions. Forms of entertainment and knowledge such as Magazines, TV shows, TV channels, Movies, etc., portray a particular fascination towards cars. For an average American, the car primarily serves as “the predominant form of transportation for work and other travel purposes. In 2013, about 86 percent of all workers commuted to work by private vehicle, either driving alone or carpooling . A car is an essential commodity in the average Americans day to day business.
A recent social discourse speaks to the transition and mass adoption of electric vehicles in exchange for the combustible engine that dominates our roadways. Environmental and climate change have played a vital role in developing support in a more scholarly society for initiatives that reduce the planet’s active degradation. The interest shown in duplicating Tesla’s vision of producing electric cars has pushed significant car manufacturers such as Ford, General Motors, Mercedes to pursue electric cars’ production to meet changing consumer aspirations. The thing to understand is that a consumer is tentative and fickle. Electric vehicles are not recent, and neither will overhaul the roadways; regardless, they will play a complementary role in mobility.
The early history of the electric car introduces us to William Morrison and Morrison Electric. Morrison’s chemistry background, coupled with a keen interest in storage batteries, made him a very popular, wealthy, and influential individual. Mr. Morrison’s primary interest was not automobiles; it was “to prove the worth of his batteries” . “On August 11, 1892, the Morrison electric carriage became the first automobile so powered to travel Chicago streets and laid its strong claim of being the first automobile of any power to be driven on the streets of Chicago” . In April of 1897, the Morris and Salom’s Electric Carriage and Wagon Company which operated an electric cab service in Manhattan, “happily reported to the Society of Western Engineers that they had served a thousand passengers and the small fleet collectively traveled two thousand miles across the city” .
The timeline of electric cars also introduces us to Thomas Edison. An inventor whose influence still exists in society. According to Paul Israel, the director and general editor of the Edison Papers, “Henry Ford introduced the inexpensive, high-quality, low-cost, gasoline-powered Model T in 1908, just one year after Edison had perfected his battery and some two years before Edison was ready to manufacture it on a large scale” . Model T and its subsequent developments, combined with the discovery of Texas crude oil, revolutionized transport and helped decrease the electric vehicle. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, by 1935, “they have all but disappeared” and saw a resurgence in interest when gas prices soared in the 1960s and 1970s . The introduction of the Toyota Prius in 1997 as the world’s first mass-produced hybrid passenger vehicle ushered a new approach to building a “practical, emission family vehicle” . The last century of electric cars would look completely different than the upcoming century. Electric vehicles are a necessary tool to offset the carbon emissions of the combustible engine. Still, the paradigm shift needs to less reliant on consumer behavior and more reliant on state and corporations.
Electric cars find their most considerable credibility through the body of knowledge they provide in long term financial benefits for the user. Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory calculated that motorists could incur fuel cost saving of $3,000-$10,500 in an average lifetime by driving an electric vehicle instead of a similar one fueled by gasoline . In tangent, maintenance of the car is essential to ensure performance. In a review by Consumer Reports, Pay Less for Vehicle Maintenance With an EV, they state, “consumers who purchase an electric car can expect to save an average of $4,600 in repair and maintenance costs over the life of the vehicle compared with a gasoline-powered car” . An electric car compared to a gas-powered one has fewer components leading to fewer periodic maintenance checks.
If accepted that a car is a manufactured box on wheels, an electric vehicle would appear to be a financial asset that induces positive cash flow. Social activism towards a changing climate has thrust electric cars as a solution to solve a growing crisis. As of September 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom, in response to growing climate change experienced in California, “pledged to ban all sales of new-gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035” . Lyft announced that it plans on only allowing electric vehicles on its platform by 2030 . These actions can be considered positive contributors to titling consumer behavior and patterns to guide collective action for a positive cause. A car for an American provides social and economic mobility. But when American drives, they share the freeway with other vehicles such as trucks, buses, vans, etc. on the road, and that is the point. Currently, electric mobility is laser-focused on cars. In contrast, it needs to be more diverse since other sectors such as trucking and government vehicles might have little to no influence from the consumer in operating terms.
As of 2018, according to the Bureau of Transportation, there were approx 8,000,000 total automobiles and trucks in business and government fleets, at 38% and 35%, respectively . Upon inspection of data, there is a noticeable downward trend in the size of fleets. Electrification of these fleets is essential since relying on consumer behavior to contribute to collective action is difficult.
Major transportation participants have responded to the electrification challenge in innovative and creative ways. In August 2020, supply chain leader J.B Hunt “completed its first delivery using the Freightliner eCascadia, Daimler Trucks North America’s all-electric Class 8 truck” . School bus manufacturers, Blue Bird Corporation, have experienced great reception to their electric school buses nationwide and have created a potential derivative, “Electric buses built by Blue Bird are now equipped with vehicle to grid (V2G) capability, allowing communities to use the electric buses as back-up power sources in emergency situations, as well as revenue generators through selling electricity back to the grid while the bus is plugged in during peak power times” . Coca Cola, in partnership with XL Fleet, “has deployed nearly 300 hybrid electric GMC Chevy Express vans to its fleet since 2012.. with an average MPG improvement of 20.2% over their lifetime” . Such examples show corporations and state beneficiaries gearing and gaining momentum in electrification.
Electric cars will be a part of society; there is no question about it. Changing perceptions, a consistent decline in the price of batteries, and a shift in production lines shall make electric cars in general cheaper for the consumer to purchase. Isolating cars as the only cleaner solution is a deflection from the overall purpose of electrification. History displays examples of electrification of cars and not the transport industry in general, and through it, at least it shows that electric cars are a significant work in progress.