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Electric cars may have been in the news a lot over the last decade as a major new innovation in transport technology. In actual fact, electricity has long been used as a source of power for travelling. The first electric car was actually launched onto the open market in the 1890s, and at the turn of the century New York was already running a fleet of 60 electric taxis. Porsche even invested the first ever hybrid car in 1898.

Needless to say, as combustion engine technology rapidly improved during the early part of the 20th century, the popularity of electric cars declined, and the world became dependent on oil and gas. Investment in electric cars dropped as a result. It wasn’t until the Arab Oil Embargo in 1973 that corporations realised they needed to reduce the dependence on foreign oil, and the interest in electric car development was reignited.

This has been further exacerbated by the increasing concern of the damage that fossil fuels do to the environment, and the understanding that electric cars are significantly less damaging.

Are they already having an environmental impact?

Because an electric car eliminates significantly fewer carbon emissions that a petrol car, the environmental impact is already having an effect on cities around the world. Air pollution levels are dropping, and many cities are introducing low emission zones and controlling the quantity of traffic that travels through city centres to discourage the unnecessary use of petrol and diesel cars.

Challenges of expanding electric vehicle use

li-po battery

While technological progress has been made in the design and development of electric cars in the 21st century, there are still a number of factors that are significant cause for concern.

A major concern is the length of use of a li-po battery, which currently runs at about eight to ten years, though that effectiveness does fade over time, like your phone battery. Once the battery is no longer viable, you will have to replace it. Currently the average cost of a new battery for an electric car is nearly £5,500. And with demand set to increase in the coming years, that price is set to increase as well.

There is also strong evidence that cobalt mining for lithium batteries is highly unregulated and has been demonstrated to be unethical. Stricter controls and regulations need to be imposed to ensure that exploitation does not occur, and that the areas where the raw materials are gathered are protected by the international communities.

Changes required for increased use

While the above points are key areas that need to be tackled to encourage more people away from a reliance on petrol cars, and onto electric vehicles, another major area of concern is the availability of charging points, which are currently not as widespread as they need to be.

Part of this is associated with the implication of a complete change in attitude and mindset. For so many decades now we are used to filling our cars a the local petrol station – for many individuals it forms part of their regular routine, going to the same petrol station at the same time every week.

Although electric charging points are increasing month on month – at the last count there are more than 42,000 charge points in 15,500 locations across the UK – there is still a long way to go. The general public have yet to be convinced in large numbers that electric cars are a viable alternative, and that they are not going to be left stranded in the middle of a motorway by a battery that suddenly loses all power!