Every day, the human race is subject to changes at a blinding rate. In a negative light, people consider changes to be “challenges,” whereas positive changes are considered “progress” or “evolution.” In any case, the world has observed myriad discoveries and development. Though it was not all sunshine and rainbows, and by no means perfectly executed, our predecessors built everything for us. They transformed streets of dust and horse-drawn carriages into highways of automobiles, and this stark change in technological development deserves some retracing.
In 1894, the first-ever large-scale combustion car production was initiated. Karl Benz, a German engine designer, developed and manufactured the first automobile, with a primitive model known as the “Benz Velocipede,” or, “Benz Velo” for short. A few years later, Henry Ford, inspired by the German, would soon revolutionize manufacturing with his unique concept for assembly lines in 1903 and receive credit for popularizing and shaping the automobile industry. As should be expected with emerging technology, the first automobiles were highly fuel-inefficient and much more harmful to the environment. Alongside decades to come, manufacturers began to make many improvements to their cars, including adding catalytic converters, which abruptly reduced carbon emissions from the vehicles.
Nowadays, a modern Henry Ford is emerging in the electric motor industry: Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and a quick-minded engineer who understands the necessity for innovation in our society. He is an idealist; he wants to improve humanity as much as possible during its passage on earth, and, to do so, he believes a transition into electric vehicles is necessary for sustainability. Along with Martin Eberhard, JB Straubel, Marc Tarpenning and Ian Wright, Musk co-founded Tesla to be focused on technology and cars, eventually leading the two to intersect on a large scale. Though the first mass-produced electric car, the General Motors EV1, was created in the 1990s, this alternative automobile technology was too new and uncharted at the time to be accepted as a potential standard. However, the introduction of the Tesla Roadster in 2008 changed the game, as the company found a way to refine the concept by using lithium-ion batteries in their cars, allowing significantly greater speeds and distances. Since 2015, the company experienced a boom in sales, peaking in 2018, and experienced an additional spike in 2020.
Elon is a mastermind; he understood the means to reach out to people and did it while having fun, even taking the time to joke around with people on Twitter. He strongly advocates the industry toward more sustainable solutions, and, regardless of his competitors’ stances on the matter, they have begun swaying to join in the electric market. Even huge automobile companies such as Mercedes-Benz have announced their termination of funding into the Formula One car development, as the racing vehicles were far too environmentally impactful. Instead, they pledged to shift their finances toward the electric car development budget. Although this is a crucial moment for humanity, we still hold the key in our hands to make the difference and go green.
Though it may be years before electric cars are more accessible to the everyday household, it is worth considering more environmentally-friendly routes to take in our daily lives. After all, understanding inefficiency leads to innovation, so why not look around and see what needs some change?