How Tesla "Brought Back" The Electric Car
Many people know that Tesla is synonymous with the electric car today, but many people do not know the long history of electric cars, and how Tesla was able to circumvent years of sidelining electric vehicles in favor of their gasoline equivalents.
Pre-Tesla Electric Cars
The history of the electric car is longer than most people think. According to this timeline by PBS, the first practical electrical vehicle was an electric locomotive built in 1835. Yes, the first electric vehicle was built before the internal combustion engine had been developed.
By the time Henry Ford produced his Model T, electric automobiles made up 20% of the car industry, a percentage they have not seen since. Once Ford's production line made vehicles something that any individual or family could own, the limits of electric resources at the time (poor batteries, rural infrastructure, etc.) put electric cars in the daydream category.
While businesses and local governments worked at creating viable electric vehicles, the first commercially successful electric vehicle was the Toyota Prius, a hybrid. This was the method that many businesses used from the release of the Prius in 1997 until Tesla came on the scene. The major commercial electric vehicles were hybrids.
Tesla Enters The Scene
When Tesla entered the scene in 2006, there were no commercially viable all-electric models apart from electric varieties of hybrids. Tesla revealed their Roadster in 2006 with planned production in 2008. Rather than creating an electric vehicle variation of gas or hybrid engines, Tesla was committed to designing the electric car from the ground up. This revolutionized the way electric cars were viewed and resulted in public partnerships between governments and automakers, like the Israeli-BetterPlace agreement. Although this specific agreement fell through because of free market issues, the idea of electric cars as part of public infrastructure is here to stay.
This revolutionized the way electric cars were viewed and resulted in public works projects. Israel announced a partnership to produce electric vehicles in 2008 and was followed by commitments from the British and American governments in the next year.
Tesla was leading the way in building electric cars, but the climax that would challenge the auto industry to start to take electric vehicles seriously was not until April of this year.
Tesla's Big Payday
The event that challenged everyone's preconception of electric vehicles was the $10 Billion pre-sale campaign for the Model 3. The Model 3 is Tesla's first product designed for and released to the average consumer and in two days, customers had put $1,000 down on 276,000 orders for the planned 2017 release of the Model 3.
While Tesla changed the way people talk about electric cars in 2006, it was not until the release of a car available for an average consumer that Tesla was able to challenge the dominance of the internal combustion engine established by the production of the average person's car in the 1910s, the Model T.
Electric cars have become more mainstream since Tesla's release of the Roadster in 2008, and Tesla has followed up with 3 more general production models. The Roadster was designed for use in California, but the use of Tesla's electric cars has grown across all 50 states.
Additionally, there are a number of electric vehicles operating to compete with the share of the market which Tesla is creating. These include the BMW i3, the Chevrolet Spark EV, the Fiat 500e, the Ford Focus EV, the Kia Soul EV, the Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric, the Mitsubishi i, the Nissan Leaf, the Smart Electric Drive, and the Volkswagen eGolf.
Infrastructure, Storage, and Image Changes
Because of the growth of Tesla and the general tendency of the public to be more open to producing electric vehicles, the infrastructure for charging electric vehicles has grown significantly over the last 8 years. Tesla developed charging stations across the network of American Interstates and other nations have embarked on similar projects.
Not only has electric charging infrastructure grown over the last 8 years, but the storage capacity of electric batteries has been increasing as well. Tesla's high-end Model S runs an impressive 270 miles on one full charge which is significantly more than Tesla's lower priced competition. The affordable Model 3 delivers a car competitive on price with other EVs but still delivering an impressive 215 miles per charge, according to Tesla.
Because of the changing image of EVs through the sporty design of the cars and the effervescent appeal of Elon Musk, Tesla has brought the electric car back onto the stage of the world's markets.