The evolution of electric vehicles
The electric car feels like a thoroughly 21st century concept, yet the first battery powered vehicle was actually built in the 19th century. Development stuttered and stalled for the next 150 years or so, but a new era of e-transport was jumpstarted in 1997 with the launch of the Toyota Prius. As the appetite for eco-friendly vehicles has grown, the motor industry has accelerated production to keep pace with demand. And compared to just a decade ago, today’s electric vehicles are faster, more practical, and they’re about to get a whole lot noisier too!
Audible warning systems
Aside from the obvious benefits of being cleaner and cheaper to run, electric engines are incredibly quiet. But the flipside of this is that electric vehicles can be a danger to cyclists and pedestrians, who can’t hear them coming. That’s why, on 1st July this year, the EU imposed a new regulation requiring all new electric cars and hybrids to be fitted with an Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System (AVAS). This will be active at speeds below 12mph, emitting a warning sound to alert other road users of the vehicle’s presence. The rule stipulates that the sound should simulate the noise of a regular engine, and must feature a ‘frequency shift’ to indicate whether the car is speeding up or slowing down.
Early adopters of battery-powered transport had few options, with choice limited to a small number of plain-looking vehicles ‘boasting’ poor range and feeble performance. But today, e-car buyers are spoilt for choice, with many of the most popular petrol and diesel models now available in electric or hybrid form. And drivers can now buy eco-friendly SUVs and luxury saloons, or even an electric supercar that accelerates to 60mph in around 2 seconds and maxes out at over 250mph!
One of the main factors deterring some drivers from going electric has been the availability of charging points, or rather the lack of it – which makes long journeys an exercise in smart route planning. But the number of charging locations around the UK has increased five-fold since 2011, to around 13,000 sites today. And the government is currently considering a range of radical plans to further expand the UK’s charging network – from installing charging points in all new homes and offices, to modifying street lighting to include integrated charging facilities.