The Tesla and Edison story is a tale of technology that has helped us more than just a few generations past when the Edison motor that powered the telegraph would have probably been more useful. But the Tesla and Edison story is also one of technology that has helped to lift us out of dire poverty, and give us greater opportunities, more secure lives, greater security, and more opportunity for the people from every corner of this planet.
So when Tesla Motors Inc. (TMI) CEO Elon Musk announces he is putting 500,000 lithium batteries into his Model S electric car in just a few months, I am reminded of the famous quote by Charles Goodyear that goes:
“If there is a difference between men and machines, it is only that one builds stuff and the other takes it,” he said.
If there is a difference, Tesla is definitely a machine.
A History of Battery-Based Electric Vehicles
During the early days of electric vehicles, the earliest electric vehicles were built, and then abandoned – but most electric vehicles of the twentieth century are battery-based.
In the mid-19th century, General Electric (GE) developed the Edison battery. These batteries would give you 1/4 the energy of the current electric cars of the time. In fact, these batteries were so useful for powering electrical devices during the late 1840s that General Electric began producing them in huge quantities, to power various electrical factories.
By the close of World War I, large areas of the U.S. were electrified using generators powered by GE batteries. Some regions used the electricity to serve cities, and others used it for lighting, or to make power sources more efficient.
During World War II, as the war progressed, several large cities, including New York, Los Angeles and the Bay Area, relied on a battery-based system.
In 1947, General Electric developed the Niagra battery and quickly made it into a popular portable energy source. Niagra batteries were used to power small generators on ships in the early 1950s.
By 1965, the Niagra batteries were in large quantities, and most of the world was powered by Niagra batteries. In 1960, General Motors introduced the first gasoline-powered electric car, the Buick Skylark, and in 1964, Volkswagen introduced the Beetle.
Fast forward to the present day, and the battery-based electric car market has almost tripled in size, from $5.7 billion in 2009 to $38 billion