Electric vehicles aren’t new, just new again after 200 years

James Raia

Approaching 200 years ago, a few smart, innovators with big dreams began experimenting with vehicles propelled by electricity, the original Electric Vehicles. Two Scotsmen respectively introduced an electric carriage and locomotive with galvanic cells with limited lives.

The contraptions quickly gained notoriety. They were revolutionary for the early 1830s, but are best remembered as pre-historic precursors to the current electric vehicle surge.

All major and niche car manufacturers — Chevrolet to Ford, Tesla to Lucid —have electric cars and trucks or are preparing an alternative fuel or electric vehicle.

One of the original electric vehicles, the Ransom Eli Olds built electric horseless carriages before debuting the first mass-market Oldsmobile cars in 1901. 
One of the original electric vehicles, the Ransom Eli Olds built electric horseless carriages before debuting the first mass-market Oldsmobile cars in 1901.

The automotive future is now, accelerated in California by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order announced in September 2020. The state will require by 2035 that all new car and passenger trucks sold in California be zero-emission vehicles.

Electronic vehicle pioneers were renowned engineers, but who knew they could predict the future?

While early entrepreneurs’ machines vanished, EVs never disappeared. The electric streetcar, Electrobat, debuted in Philadelphia in the late 1890s. It had rear-steering, a 25-mile range and a top speed of 20 miles per hour.

Ransom Eli Olds built electric horseless carriages before debuting the first mass-market Oldsmobile cars in 1901. The Thomas Egger-Lohner C.2 Phaeton electric vehicle was engineered by Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, founder of his namesake vehicle. Studebaker began the 20th century by debuting electric cars.

Much happened in the next 100 years, all outdone by the industry’s growth in the past 20 years.

Tesla wasn’t the first modern, mass-produced electric vehicle. General Motors’ EV was made for four years beginning in 1996. But Tesla founder Elon Musk changed the automotive industry in 2008 with the Roadster, the first electric supercar.

The Tesla Model X, which debuted in 2015, has had reliability issues.
The Tesla Model X, which debuted in 2015, has had reliability issues.

Several models have followed, pushing the iconic brand, named after Serbian-American futurist Nikola Tesla, into a phenomenon. The Tesla Model 3 is the best-selling plug-in electric vehicle in history, surpassing one million units sold in June 2020.

Tesla’s success pushed other manufacturers into catch-up mode. The public hasn’t embraced alternative fuel vehicles, particularly electric vehicles. But the industry is moving forward.

The Toyota Prius, the first mainstream hybrid, debuted in the United States in 2000. With many other carmakers’ offerings added into the mix, hybrids comprise only 2.5 percent of the country’s vehicle sales. Electric vehicles represented only 1.7 percent of U.S. car sales in 2020.

But with tax incentives, purchasing an electric vehicle in many instances is economically prudent. In October 2021, the average price of a new car in the U.S. surpassed $45,000 for the first time. A recent report, published by Cars.com, notes base models of the country’s top-11 cheapest electric vehicles cost $45,000 or less.

Here are six additional manufacturers’ electric vehicles, value-oriented to luxury, and their status with RV enthusiasts:

The 2022 Mustang Mach-E looks look nothing like any other Mustang, but among new electric vehicles it's received vast praise.
The 2022 Mustang Mach-E looks look nothing like any other Mustang, but among new electric vehicles it’s received vast praise.

2022 CHEVROLET BOLT — Competition among electric vehicles is brisk. The small hatchback is much improved out of necessity. Updates are about as detailed as can occur without a carmaker declaring a vehicle’s new generation.

With its starting price slashed $5,000 from 2021, the Bolt begins at $31,995. New stuff inside and outside abounds.

The interior includes a new instrument panel, new seats, an 8-inch gauge display and a 10.2-inch touchscreen. There’s also a new shifter design with buttons and toggles.

The biggest styling change is a more upright front end. It has “high-eye” daytime running lights and turn signals, with headlights lower down. Inside, new seats and a new instrument panel with a standard 10.2-inch touchscreen and an available 8-inch gauge display shine. A new shifter design uses toggles and buttons.

“I live here, not too far away, so it’s perfect,” says Vasquez of his Bolt. “I drive it to work. I plug it in, use the vehicle and plug it in again in a week. No fuel, no maintenance. It is the future. The infrastructure just has to catch up.”

A rear cross-traffic alert, 360-degree camera system and adaptive cruise control is included with the Bolt. Direct current fast-charging capability is also now standard, as is a dual-level charge cord that can be used with 120-volt or 240-volt home outlets.

The new Bolt retains a 65-kWh battery and 200-horsepower electric motor, with as much as a 259-mile range.

The new Hummer EV is not a favorite car for many, but it's among are in electric vehicles — it's sold out.
The new Hummer EV is not a favorite car for many, but it’s among are in electric vehicles — it’s sold out.

A Chevy Bolt cannot be flat towed, but it can be towed with a tow dolly that has electric brakes.

2022 HUMMER EV — About as far removed from the former gargantuan-is-better approach, the Edition 1 is hardly subdued. But the returning beast is less military-styled and more geared toward performance than its defunct, steroid-laden ancestor.

With a projected 1,000 horsepower and acceleration from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.0 seconds, a bruiser among electric vehicles, and will bristle with machismo. It comes standard with 35-inch all-terrain tires, but can accommodate larger styles.

An adaptive air suspension? Why not? The new Hummer’s body can lift 5.8 inches when conditions dictate. What the new Hummer isn’t is cheap. The base model won’t be available until 2024 and will start at $80,000.

Like its predecessor, the new Hummer is strikingly different in looks and drive. And aren’t all electric vehicles. It joins the Ford F-150 Raptor, the Ram 1500 TRX and Rivian R1 in the fledgling super-truck segment. It’s testosterone on wheels defined.

The Hummer EV has a towing capacity of 7,500 pounds.

2022 NISSAN LEAF — A pioneer among fully electric vehicles available in the U.S., the base trim Leaf is now called the “S” model. The four-door hatchback debuted in 2011 and the newest version presents another segment oddity.

The Rivian Concept electric trucks and SUV are potential competitors for Tesla and were featured at the LA Auto Show.
The Rivian Concept electric trucks and SUV are potential competitors for Tesla and were featured electric vehicle at the 2018 at the LA Auto Show.

The standard-range Leaf has a 40-kilowatt-hour battery and a 147-horsepower electric motor, bigger than earlier models. But it’s also been reduced by $4,000 to make the manufacturer’s retail price $28,375. It’s the country’s lowest-price EV. Its charging range hasn’t been set, but will vary from 149 to 226 depending upon model.

Much about the Leaf is basic. But for the price, it offers a good share of features. An 8-inch touchscreen with navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. A fast-charging port and portable 240-volt charging cable are also included. A Leaf Plus, with a larger battery, longer range (and higher price), is also available. A Nissan Leaf can only be towed via a tow dolly.

2022 FORD MUSTANG MACH-E — It looks nothing like a Mustang, but the small fastback SUV has the iconic sports car’s badging, it’s stylish and fast. The two GT performance versions have estimated 0 to 60 miles per hour times of 3.5 seconds.

There’s much more to like. The base, standard-range Mach-E has a 68-kWh battery; the longer-range versions have an 88-kWh pack. A dual-motor, all-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive are available. With the standard-range Select trim, the range is 230 miles; it’s 211 miles with all-wheel-drive. The uniquely made California Route 1 model with rear-wheel-drive has a 305-mile range. Fast-charging capability is standard at up to 150 kWh.

The 15 1/2-inch vertically mounted touchscreen is a highlight. Ford calls its infotainment/multimedia/safety system Sync 4A. It handles most of the interior functions. Standard safety and technology features are impressive and are the overall interior space, driving comfort and road feel. It’s a lot of car for a starting price of $43,995. The 2022 Mustang Mach-E can’t be flat or dolly towed.

The 2022 Lucid Air electric care was awarded MotorTrend’s Car of the Year.
The 2022 Lucid Air, among the new breed of electric vehicles, was awarded MotorTrend’s Car of the Year.

2022 LUCID AIR — Fifteen years after it was founded as a battery manufacturer and then rebranded as an automaker, the carmaker’s luxury sedan has arrived. It hopes to go where no new electric car has gone — to challenge Tesla.

Massively powerful, the top-line Air Dream Performance edition has 1,111 horsepower and 1,025 pounds-feet of torque. Its slightly less powerful sibling has 933 horsepower but a manufacturer’s-best 520 miles of range. A few other trims vary in horsepower, but remain specification monsters.

With such high numbers and extraordinarily styling inside and out, the two top-line Air models sold out shortly after they were announced for a price estimated at $170,000. Cheaper editions, with lower performance expectations, are planned for 2022 and for about half the cost. The 2022 Lucid Air can’t be flat or dolly towed.

2022 RIVIAN R1T — Style, innovation and unparalleled specifications lean toward success for the just-debuting pickup truck. It’s been planned for years, and it’s strategically built its financial foundation. Now what awaits is real-world reviews.

The on-paper numbers impress: The Rivian has 1,760 pounds of payload and an 11,000-pound towing capacity. Its 314-mile range is better than many electric cars, it’s the most among trucks or RVs.

Further, Rivian’s 0-to-60 miles per hour acceleration is marketed at 3.5 seconds. The R1T is a performance-oriented truck with equal ability for off-road adventure. There’s more. The truck has four electric motors that deliver a combined 835 horsepower and 908 lb-ft of torque. It weighs 7,148 pounds and still has 0-60 miles-per-hour acceleration in 3.5 seconds.

Two one-of-a-kind features complete the futuristic-looking truck. A side-to-side pass-thru box storage area is located begins the rear seats. It’s called “gear tunnel.” It’s ideal for golf clubs, skis, luggage, etc. But an optional accessory is the removable “camp kitchen.” It features a 1440-watt induction stovetop. The Rivian R1T starts at $74,145.

Article Last Updated: August 7, 2023.

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