So it’s not the Tron: Legacy Light Runner but the new Audi e-tron is still pretty sweet. With a towing capacity of 4000 pounds and a dashboard chock full of tech, the new generation electric SUVs look to be getting increasingly beastly. However, a key characteristic of the Audi EV range is that—despite their sci-fi-inspired names—the cars look exceedingly ordinary. Without the sleek body design and fancy lighting accents, some of the recently released EVs can only be distinguished from conventional cars by their inner workings. While those of us looking for a futuristic ride may find that boring, the integration of EV technology with ‘normal’ cars is a definite sign that EVs are going mainstream.
The EV market has been on fire in the past year, with stocks wildly outperforming expectations. The ubiquitous Tesla Inc. hit a low of $70 in 2020 and a phenomenal high of $800 this year as trades were swayed by the random social media posts of CEO Elon Musk. Electric vehicle penny stocks are now poised for an upward ride as lesser-known players in the EV market are being swept up by the clean energy storm. With the global EV market growing 43 percent from 2019 to 2020 and populous China making a huge push for EV adoption, EV stocks are looking like the next big thing.
Although the name Tesla is now synonymous with EVs, electric vehicles have been around a long time before Elon Musk was a twinkle in his daddy’s eye. In 1828, Hungarian inventor Anyos Jedlik built the first model electrical car. Over the decades, designers continued to experiment and, in 1884, British industrialist Thomas Parker built the first production electric car using custom-made rechargeable batteries. Ten years later, the cool-sounding Electrobat was unveiled in Pennsylvania by electrochemical engineer Pedro Salom and inventor Henry G. Morris. (Spoiler: It looked nothing like a bat.)
Interest in the electric car continued to rise in industrialized countries, with electric battery-powered London cabs being introduced in 1897. Sadly, a combination of poor electrical infrastructure and the discovery of large deposits of petroleum and crude oil in the early 1900s led to the premature demise of the industry. EVs were shelved for a good long time until General Motors tried (somewhat fruitlessly) to revive the market with their EV1 in 1996. In 2008, Tesla Motors produced the Roadster, the first relatively successful EV and the first electric car to use a lithium-ion battery. Since then, the EV market has been expanding exponentially.
The popularization of EVs goes hand-in-hand with the impetus to protect the environment. The 1970 Clean Air Act set the scene for the eventual phasing out of fossil fuel combustion engines and international treaties such as the Paris Agreement are pushing countries to take measures to severely reduce their emissions. The Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM), a high-level global forum, launched the Electric Vehicles Initiative (EVI), a program designed to accelerate the conversion of the global vehicle fleet from gas to electric.
For those of us who do not yet want to perish in a great ball of fire, owning an EV has the side perk of taking care of the climate. Studies have shown that EVs produce 34 percent less emissions than hybrid vehicles and an impressive 68 percent less than conventional cars. While the production of lithium-ion batteries remains the most criticized component of EVs, the entire life cycle of the EV (including disposal and recycling) still fares better for the environment than a gas car. Leading manufacturers like Tesla have also committed to producing a scalable recycling system for used batteries.
As a party to both the Paris Agreement and the CEM, the US is offering unprecedented financial benefits for EV buyers. Federal tax credit is available for plug-in EVs and over half of the states in the country provide rebates, exemption from fuel emission testing, free parking, and more for those who purchase EVs. For example, California is leading the way in incentivizing EV purchases by dishing out $1,500 discounts as part of the California Clean Fuel Reward.
Of course, savings from EVs are not only at the point of sale. Electricity costs a lot less than gas and, according to eGallon, an EV costs only half as much to operate as a conventional vehicle. For car owners who produce their own electricity through solar power, the running costs for an EV are practically negligible. Add to this the fact that EVs have a more simplified internal setup and require less maintenance, and EV owners are looking at an average of $330 in annual maintenance savings.
From the Audi e-tron to the Rimac Concept One and the Ford Mustang Mach-E, the EVs entering the market are getting sexier and more varied. Whether people are into EVs for energy efficiency, reduced emissions, cold hard dollar savings, or the thrill of owning the latest in automobile technology, the attraction is undeniable. It is not hard to imagine a distant future where EVs make up a solid majority of the global vehicle fleet. If vehicle designers could just add more neon lights, everything would be absolutely perfect.