Although the concept has been around for over a hundred years, electric cars have struggled to compete against petrol and diesel vehicles. But that’s all set to change, given the recent concern in the environment, as well as a rapid increase in improvements to electric car technology.

But can the electric car really contend with the tried-and-true petrol car? We’ve teamed up with Volkswagen Up! stockists Lookers Volkswagen to explore the changes and upgrades to electric cars.

The first steps

A battery-power vehicle was consider by innovators from the Netherlands, Hungary, and the United States back in the 1800s. They created small-scale electric cars, but it took until the second half of the 19th century before French and English inventors produced the first practical electric vehicles.

They were perfect for short trips around the city, and their quiet nature made them popular. Thomas Edison worked to develop better batteries for electric vehicles and in 1901, the world’s first hybrid electric car was invented.

The electric car’s population suffered in 1920 when crude oil became cheaper, but began to rise again with environmental regulations being introduced in the 1990s. With a green future becoming a main objective amongst the world’s leaders, it’s anticipated that by 2040 electric cars will account for a third of global sales. In the UK, ministers have been informed that most new cars would need to be electric by 2030 and, with fully autonomous cars due to be rolled out in the coming years, the industry is well on its way to hitting this target, especially as motoring giants are producing more and more electric versions of their fleet.

Improvements

Electric vehicles are already enjoying a resurgence. The world is realising that we have to move away from a fossil fuel-driven economy towards one that is more sustainable as we attempt to bring a halt to climate change. Transportation can, and is, one area that must be focused on. In 2017, more than half of cars sold in Norway were electric, while China continues to lead the way in a market that keeps growing. In fact, with sales of electric cars rising each month, Volkswagen has announced a $10 billion investment in the country to develop relevant technology and has set out plans to manufacture 1.5 million electric vehicles by 2025.

There are developments already underway. Lithium-sulphur and solid state devices are also in development to continue the improvement in the car’s battery life. Also, the number of charging points available in the UK is on the rise, quickly increasing by over 5,000 between 2016 and 2017. It’s these two developments that are leading the way in the electric car revolution.

The improvements to the electric car stretch beyond the public sector. Spectators at the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed were treated to a record-breaking run as the VW ID R, fresh from breaking the record for the fastest run up the Pikes Peak international Hill Climb, smashed the official hill climb record for electric vehicles by 3.5 seconds. This, on top of the rise of the enthralling Formula E series, shows just how far these automobiles are coming.

Current electric cars

Prices for electric cars are currently a little higher than petrol or diesel cars, but they are dropping steadily. Thanks to rules that are being introduced to limit the kind of vehicles allowed into major cities, electric cars are becoming more mainstream. Plus, since they have very few moving parts, electric cars in theory allow for fewer issues to arise.  This means that on the whole, servicing your electric car should be cheaper than a petrol or diesel car. However, the range you achieve from an electric car, although increasing as batteries improve, isn’t as good as what you’d receive from a full tank of petrol or diesel.

Your own driving style and type will determine if you should switch to electric. However, given time and with constant technological advancements you can expect the power and range of electric cars to improve, meaning the rise of the electric vehicle in the 21st century is one that looks like gaining even greater moment over the coming years.