In the 2020s, the world is going through an automobile revolution, as a lot of people are swapping their petrol and diesel cars for electric vehicles instead.
This requires a completely new infrastructure, advanced battery technology and the skills of a trained electrical installer to fit charging points and stations in every house and along as many streets as possible.
However, at the turn of the 20th century, there was a turning point in automobile history where electric cars could have been the future of transportation and internal combustion engines a
footnote in history, as opposed to the other way around.
Whilst attempts were made to create an electric car as early as 1828, the first electric carriage was invented by Robert Anderson at some point between 1832 and 1839, but it would take until 1881 for battery technology to improve to the point that such cars were capable of carrying people.
Inventor Gustave Trouvé fitted a Siemens electric motor and rechargeable battery to a James Starley Tricycle and managed to ride along the Rue Valois in Paris. However, because so much of his machine was adapted from other inventors, he could not successfully patent it and his pioneering work has been largely forgotten.
Thomas Parker’s 1884 effort was more successful, and after a string of mergers his Electric Construction Company was dominant in the British electric car market in the 1890s.
At that point, electric cars were by far the most popular type of car available in what was a limited market, in no small part because steam engines could take almost an hour to start on cold mornings and petrol cars in a pre-ignition era required a stiff turn of a borderline-dangerous starting handle to start the engine.
The problem was a very limited range, but at a time when all cars were only expected to be used to travel around towns and cities, this only became a problem when petrol became cheaper and the electric starter motor removed the arm-breaking risk of the starting handle.
As well as this, mass production lowered the price to the point that electric cars often cost double its petrol equivalent.
However, Thomas Edison managed to fix the issues he had with his potentially revolutionary nickel-iron batteries instead of swapping them for lead-acid batteries and lying to Henry Ford about it, there’s a chance that electric cars would have been more widely available a century earlier than they ultimately would be.