Saturday, May 7, 2011

Gas Cars & EV Fueling, History Repeats

‘When going forward, a rear view mirror can be most helpful’ Peder Norby

Electric vehicle charging and the lack of local, regional and national, EVSE infrastructure is a well documented area of concern among those considering an EV. A look at our history reveals no need for worry, that the path of EV development, mirrors exactly the early path of the gasoline powered automobile.

“If you think this is just an interesting piece of trivia, you’re likely not ready for the MINI E, the BMW Megacity or any other EV, for that matter. But if you consider this fact to be a powerful parallel, a bigger charge from your driving experience is fast approaching” This according to Mark Hacking in his article Mini’s Electric Future.

Let’s start with the gas car.

Karl Benz was granted a patent for the two stoke engine in 1879. Benz demonstrated the first gasoline car powered by an internal-combustion engine in Mannheim, Germany, on 3 July 1886. It was called the Motorwagon. From 1886 progressing to 1908 dozens of manufacturers produced low volume runs of the gasoline car in many derivatives, primarily for the wealthy few that could afford such luxury.

On September 27th, 1908 the first Model T rolled off the “assembly line” and the auto era burst onto the scene, with the car now affordable to the masses. In the early years between 1879 and 1908, a driver would have a 50 gallon drum of petrol, kerosene or ethanol (home made ethanol)at home. The driver could go as far as their tank would allow and back home again. The early cars had a range of between 20 miles and 100 miles depending on the model. With the Model T that grew to 150 miles. I wonder if those early drivers had range anxiety?

Around the turn of the century many towns had multiple cars in them and the drivers began to drive to each other’s farm or property within the range of their car, an informal sharing system of fuel between drivers and their drums of fuel was established thus extending the range of the gasoline car.

The first "drive-in" filling station, Gulf Refining Co. opened to the motoring public in Pittsburgh in 1913. Prior to this, automobile drivers pulled into almost any general or hardware store, or even blacksmith shops in order to fill up their tanks or drums. On its first day, the station sold 30 gallons of gasoline at 27 cents per gallon. This was also the first architect-designed station and the first to distribute free road maps. (wikipedia)

Hay was plentiful and availble everywhere, gas stations were not.

Thus the modern era of gas stations was born 27 years after the first car appeared and 5 years after the first mass produced car was on the road. The electric car charging road map is on an identical course nearly 130 years later, an identical course however much more rapid in deployment.

As a Mini-E driver it began with our home charging station or EVSE, as far as I could go and back again to my garage. Several months later an informal sharing system of chargers between drivers emerged. You can few that system here

This year, with the BMW ActiveE, several other plug in cars and a uniformed J1772 standard for the EVSE, a city wide roll out of public charging stations begins.

Let’s make sure we record for history the epochs and episodes of the electric car world as well.

Milestones such as making your own electric fuel from sunshine. Not all that far removed from the farmer who made their own ethanol 130 years ago.

Today you can make solar fuel for the equivalent of $0.40cents a gallon, not all that far removed from that day 1913 when gas was $0.27 cents a gallon. Give it another 10 years and solar fuel will be cheaper than gas 100 years ago.
Something to think about for the future, while looking in the rear view mirror.

Cheers Peder

Mini-E #183, 28000 miles powered by sunshine.


1 comment:

  1. I read through some of your posts and found it really interesting. I'm trying to build an electric mini myself. Check out my blog at and feel free to comment or give advise.