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Will electric vehicles regain ground in 2019?


In 2018, there were signs that electric vehicles were beginning to regain ground they lost long ago

An exhibition marking Ashok Leyland’s 70th anniversary last year featured two restored Austins: an A40 Devon that the company assembled and sold in India; an Austin A40 Somerset, standing amidst symbols of electric-vehicle (EV) technology. The shell of the car was all Somerset, but its soul had been recast with this technology, an exercise that signified a convergence of the past and the future.

Titled ‘Back To The Future’, it describes the place EVs are beginning to reclaim. Yes, reclaim. Let me illustrate. In 2014, Formula E emerged as a new form of motor racing, one driven entirely by EV technology. The championship has the official mark of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile and the technology has been improving rapidly over the years.

As the 2018-2019 season is underway, we see a Gen 2 electric racing car scorch the tarmac. If you compared the specs of the Gen 1 and Gen 2 race cars, you’ll see the tech spikes. The new Formula E electric race car has more zip, and with a new battery, greater ‘staying power’. Reportedly twice as powerful as the previous one, the battery can now last the entire course of a race. The competition has also been getting fiercer. According to information posted at ABB Formula-E’s official website, the sixth season (2019-2020) will get more intense, with one more heavyweight, Mercedes-Benz, joining the fray. Our own Mahindra Racing, the motor racing wing of the Mahindra Group, is one of the teams in the Formula E series.

Now, let us rewind to the early 1900s, and zoom in on the race tracks of those days. Any analysis of racing seasons back then will have three sections: automobiles with engines running on gasoline (a North American term for petrol), steam-powered automobiles, and electric automobiles.

In an account of a racing season published in its edition dated January 30, 1904, Scientific American, a weekly, treats track records of electric automobiles and those involving gasoline-run automobiles, with an almost equal importance. The listed track records are quite revealing. For example, “the Baker electric torpedo", which seems to be quite a popular electric racecar of those times, wins the 10-mile race in 17 minutes and 58 seconds. And, in their categories, two cars running on gasoline, are listed as having completed 10 miles in the nine to 10 minutes range.

A smooth ride The world of electric vehicles is abuzz with happenings

A smooth ride The world of electric vehicles is abuzz with happenings  

Contrary to what we may assume, EVs continued to be present, if only on the periphery, despite gasoline-run vehicles gaining rapidly in popularity as a result of more refined engines. The impressive success achieved by Detroit Electric illustrates this. Anderson Electric Car Company made an electric car titled Detroit Electric that was in production from 1907 to 1939. Though tortoise-fast, this electric car seemed to impress automobile-loving Americans with how much ground it could cover on a charge. It is said to have scored high on manoeuvrability.

One of the Americans sold on the Detroit Electric was Clara Ford, the wife of the man who brought the three ‘A’s together — automobiles, affordability, and the American Dream. Henry Ford’s wife’s attachment to the Detroit Electric car is part of automobile lore. You may read about it at, and see it at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, where a 1914 Detroit Electric Model 47 Brougham, owned by Clara, is on display. In 2008, the Detroit Electric brand was revived, and eight years later, an electric performance car called Detroit Electric SP.01 was made.

And 2018 showed that in certain pockets of the world, especially China and the UK, EV goals are being pursued with great intensity. In October, the Dundee City Council from the United Kingdom received the title ‘Europe’s most visionary electric vehicle city’ from the World Electric Vehicle Association, for ensuring that two-fifth of its fleet consists of EVs and for creating an ecosystem encouraging people to opt for them. Another sign that we are accelerating towards this future is Lamborghini taking the wraps off the Terzo Millennio, an electric concept car produced in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 3:22:44 PM |

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