The world of transport is undergoing the biggest change since the early 20th Century when the combustion engine pushed petrol powered vehicles to the forefront of automotive technology. This is due to the rapid move towards electric vehicle (E.V.) production and the parallel reduction in petrol-powered vehicles. Ford, for example, have announced that they will phase out most of the cars it sells in North America, with the exception of the Mustang and an as-of-yet-unannounced vehicle.
However, electric vehicles are not a new development at all, having first appeared back in the mid-19th Century. However, while an electric vehicle held the land speed record until around 1900, the short range and high cost of these early electric vehicles saw them lose ground to the later combustion engine vehicles. Sales of electric vehicles peaked in the early 1910s but, by 1912, the cost of an electric car was almost double that of a petrol car. While electric vehicles continued to be used for certain applications, such as milk floats and golf carts, it seemed as if the heyday of E.V. was over.
This is all set to change as electric vehicles are moving to the forefront once more with the last two years seeing global investment in E.V. technology reaching nearly $1 billion. This investment has seen a number of developments, including JCB developing the world’s first electric digger, Schiphol airport in Amsterdam running 35 electric buses to ferry passengers around, Volkswagen announcing a $25 billion investment in E.V. over 16 sites, and the Chinese government targeting the production of 7 million electric vehicles by 2025.
As investment in E.V. undergoes a dramatic rise, the model for car ownership may also be set to change in the light of E.V. and driverless technology. In addition, concerns over the environment and emissions are also pushing forward E.V. development, such as with the move from diesel to electric buses and construction vehicles allowing operators to continue to work in built-up environments without adding to air pollution.
In the realm of construction vehicles, Caterpillar are producing a 26-tonne excavator with a 300 kWh battery pack, while TYM of Korea and John Deere are both working on electric tractor concepts.