Electric cars: history and modern trends

This is the latest edition of the Google Trends newsletter, with a focus today on electric vehicles.

Top questions searched about EVs 2023, US

How much does it cost to charge an electric car?

Here’s something we are bound to miss about our gas-guzzlers: Filling up is simple math. Most drivers understand how much a tank will cost, and the volatility over time is almost entirely a function of local fuel prices. Though charging EVs is generally much cheaper, figuring out how much it costs is more complicated for two big reasons.
First, a lot goes into both the rate at which you’re billed and how much charge you need. That includes what kind of car you drive, where you live, whether you use home or public chargers, what time of day you charge, and even the weather. That’s very different from pulling up to a gas station in your Corolla to a number on a price sign.

Second, and more importantly, this is a whole new world. You may not know the difference between energy and power, level 2 and 3 chargers, or time-of-use (ToU) and flat rate. And there’s no shame in that because if you’re like most people, you’ve never needed to know much about how electricity works, how it is priced, and why.

That’s about to change. An underappreciated aspect of our movement toward mass adoption of EVs is the fundamental shift we can expect in how we understand electricity. And I don’t mean just as a society—I mean as individuals going about our day-to-day business.

volkswagen id3 electric car production in dresden


Why are electric cars better than petrol and how do they work?

There are, of course, differences between a traditional fossil fuel-powered vehicle and an EV, and most of them are under the hood.

The first major difference is the car’s motor. In a petrol vehicle, there is an internal combustion engine (ICE) that works on the principle when a mixture of fuel and air is compressed and ignited, an explosion is created.

In a very simplistic way, the energy from this explosion is then used to power the engine and move the vehicle forward. In an electric car, on the other hand, the motor is electric and works using electromagnets.

The second difference is, of course, the battery. To supply electricity to the motor and allow it to operate, electric vehicles are equipped with batteries. These are mainly based on lithium-ion technology, similar to what is inside your mobile phone.

The final key piece is the inverter. The current delivered by the battery is a direct current, but the motor, like your hairdryer, needs alternating current to operate. And that’s exactly what the inverter does, turning direct current into alternating current.

How long does it take to charge an electric car?

The time it takes to charge an electric car can be as little as 30 minutes or more than 12 hours. This depends on the size of the battery and the speed of the charging point.

  • A typical electric car (60kWh battery) takes just under 8 hours to charge from empty-to-full with a 7kW charging point.
  • Most drivers top up charge rather than waiting for their battery to recharge from empty-to-full.
  • For many electric cars, you can add up to 100 miles of range in ~35 minutes with a 50kW rapid charger.
  • The bigger your car’s battery and the slower the charging point, the longer it takes to charge from empty to full.

When was the first electric car made?

The concept of electric cars dates back to the early 19th century, but the first practical electric car was built in the late 19th century. The creation of the first electric car is often attributed to Thomas Davenport, an American inventor, who built a small electric vehicle in 1834.

However, it was in the late 1870s and early 1880s that electric cars began to gain some popularity. In 1888, Flocken Elektrowagen, a German inventor named Thomas Parker, and his British counterparts developed electric carriages. Charles Fritts, an American inventor, created the first working solar cell in 1883, which had the potential to power electric vehicles using sunlight.

Nonetheless, it was around the late 19th and early 20th centuries that electric cars gained some traction, particularly for urban transportation. The Fritchle Electric Car Company, founded in 1905, is an example of an early electric car manufacturer.

Electric cars faced competition from internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, and the latter became dominant due to factors like longer range and the ease of refueling with gasoline. Electric cars experienced a resurgence in the late 20th century and have become increasingly popular in the 21st century, thanks to advancements in battery technology and environmental concerns.

How long do electric car batteries last?

How Long Do Electric Car Batteries Last

Buying a battery can set you back by a hefty sum, but in most cases, you won’t have to make that purchase at all. Generally, EV car batteries last from 10 to 20 years. Certain factors like heat, cold, or swift charging times can negatively affect that and reduce performance. Manufacturers have already included protective measures like thermal management systems and charging restrictions. Plus, you always get a warranty that covers the repairs if need be.

Every electric car battery will face degradation. Though it is inevitable, you should not worry too much. Manufacturers are trying to do everything possible to improve the life cycle and preserve top performance. So, whenever you buy an EV, you can expect your battery to work for quite some time.

Top searched EV brands 2023, US

  1. Tesla

  2. Chevrolet

  3. Ford

  4. Toyota

  5. Kia

Top searched public EV-chargers 2023, US

  1. Tesla chargers

  2. Chargepoint

  3. EVgo

  4. Electrify America

  5. Volta


Electric cars have a long history dating back to the early 19th century when inventors like Thomas Davenport and Thomas Parker created some of the earliest electric vehicles. However, electric cars gained popularity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with manufacturers like the Fritchle Electric Car Company producing them for urban transportation.

Despite their early promise, electric cars faced competition from gasoline-powered vehicles, which became dominant due to factors like longer range and easy refueling. Electric cars largely faded from the mainstream until a resurgence in the late 20th century and early 21st century.

Modern electric cars benefit from advancements in battery technology, offering longer ranges and improved performance. Environmental concerns, along with government incentives, have spurred the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs). Major automakers now produce a range of electric models, and charging infrastructure is expanding to support their growth.

Today, electric cars are a significant trend in the automotive industry, with growing popularity due to their reduced environmental impact and advancements in technology that make them more practical for everyday use.

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