“I stand on the shoulder of thousands of dreamers of science to see ,touch, and feel this magic piece of reality in the name of technology”

When a new tech hits me, I usually wonder how many scientists, engineers, businessmen who all came together for these many years for me to feel this technology.I have to agree to “ Science is the poetry of reality “ famously said by Richard Dawkins and technology is the manifestation of that poetry. Through the history of Electric vehicles, we will find that thousands of theoretical propositions along with hundreds of thousands of experimental procedures paved the way for an EV that we have with us today. 

Seeded by scientific revolution, Thriving with industrial revolution:

Scientific revolution, between 16th and 18th century, the successor to agrarian revolution and precursor to industrial revolution paved the way for many modern technologies that is prominent even today. Starting from the basic understanding of electricity and magnetism from the crucial works of William Gilbert and Otto von Guericke, expanded and consolidated by Michael Faraday and Maxwell, theoretically placed by Edison and Tesla laid the foundation for electric power generation, transmission and utilisation, which are essential components of electric vehicle technology. The invention of the voltaic pile by Alessandro Volta in 1800 marked a significant milestone in the history of electricity. This early battery consisted of alternating discs of zinc and copper separated by layers of cardboard soaked in saltwater. The voltaic pile laid the groundwork for subsequent battery developments, ultimately leading to the modern lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles. Then comes the once in a lifetime scientist Sir Issac Newton with his understanding on motion , mechanics and kinetics, as early as 17 Th. century, being essential for designing efficient electric vehicle drivetrains, which rely on electric motors to convert electrical energy into mechanical motion. The Scientific Revolution fostered advancements in material science, including metallurgy and the study of conductive materials which played a crucial role in the design and manufacturing of components such as electric motors, conductive wires, and lightweight materials for electric vehicle construction.

The Industrial revolution which began around the 18 th century enabled the society to shift from agrarian and handcrafted based economies to industrialised societies powered by machinery, electricity and fossil fuels. In the late 19th and 20th century, scientists, including Thomas Edison contributed to electric cars where as in 1828, Anyos Jedlik developed an early electric motor and proved that electricity could be used as a mode of transport. But the electric car formalised as a practical invention is attributed to Thomas Parker in 1884.Electric cars gained popularity, especially in urban areas, due to their quiet operation and lack of emissions compared to early internal combustion engine vehicles. However, the limited range and performance of early electric vehicles, coupled with the discovery and exploitation of vast petroleum reserves, led to the dominance of gasoline-powered cars by the early 20th century.Breakthroughs in lithium-ion battery technology, which began in the late 20th century and continue to the present day, have significantly increased the energy density and reduced the cost of batteries, making electric vehicles more practical and affordable. Advances in power electronics, electric motor design, and vehicle-to-grid integration have further improved the performance and efficiency of electric vehicles.

Blueprint of today’s Technology, Business and Regulations – the Ultimate Triad:

Science and advancements of the centuries designed the technical blueprint of today’s Electric vehicle. Electric motors and drivetrain are integral components of electric vehicles, offering numerous advantages over traditional internal combustion engines. Their high efficiency, responsiveness, regenerative braking capability, and design flexibility contribute to the superior performance, propulsion from electrical energy converted to mechanical energy, reliability, and environmental sustainability of electric vehicles.Lithium-ion batteries are commonly used as energy providers due to their high energy density and long cycle life. Technical management systems such as battery management systems monitor and manage individual cells to ensure optimal performance, safety, and longevity whereas thermal management systems regulate battery temperature to prevent overheating and optimize charging efficiency. Charging system includes a charging port which provides a connection point for external charging cables and then converts the AC power to DC power for battery charging. This DC power from the battery is converted to AC power to drive electric motors by the power electronics inverter. Regenerative braking system captures kinetic energy during braking and deceleration, converting it into electrical energy to recharge the battery.Vehicle control systems is equipped with an Electronic control unit which coordinates the operation of various vehicle systems, including propulsion, braking, and stability control. Other aspects of mobility such as  user interface and connectivity which includes touch screen displays , smartphone integration and over the air software updates are in line with the digital revolution of the 21st century. Modern safety equipment – both active and passive such as air bags , antilock braking system (ABS), traction and stability control are incorporated along with battery safety features such as thermal runaway prevention and crash protection, ensure safe operation under various conditions.

Business and regulatory landscape for electric vehicles is evolving rapidly, driven by technological innovation, market dynamics, and environmental imperatives. Governments worldwide are implementing stricter emissions standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change. EVs play a vital role in meeting these standards due to their zero-emission operation. Many governments offer incentives and subsidies to promote EV adoption, including tax credits, rebates, and grants for vehicle purchases, charging infrastructure installation, and research and development.Fuel economy regulations mandate automakers to improve the efficiency of their vehicle fleets, encouraging the production and sale of electric and hybrid vehicles to meet regulatory targets. Local governments are implementing zoning regulations and urban planning initiatives to encourage the use of electric vehicles and reduce traffic congestion and air pollution in urban areas. Some jurisdictions require the installation of EV charging infrastructure in new residential and commercial developments or public buildings to support EV adoption and ensure accessibility to charging facilities. Several regions have implemented ZEV mandates, requiring automakers to sell a certain percentage of electric or zero-emission vehicles in their vehicle fleets to incentivize EV production and sales. International organizations and standardization bodies are developing common standards and protocols for EVs, charging infrastructure, interoperability, and safety to facilitate global adoption and market growth. Collaboration between governments, industry stakeholders, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is essential to harmonize regulations, share best practices, and address technical and policy challenges in the EV ecosystem.

Clean energy messiah – Elon Musk and Tesla

As the CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk has spearheaded the development and popularization of electric vehicles (EVs). Tesla’s innovative approach to EV design, battery technology, and manufacturing has accelerated the transition away from fossil fuel-powered vehicles toward electric mobility. Tesla’s mission to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy aligns with the goals of clean energy advocates and environmentalists, contributing to Musk’s image as a champion of clean energy.  Musk was also a major proponent of solar energy through his involvement with SolarCity, a company focused on solar energy systems and services. Tesla later acquired SolarCity, integrating solar power generation with Tesla’s energy storage solutions. Musk’s vision of a future powered by renewable energy sources, including solar power, resonates with those advocating for a transition to cleaner and more sustainable energy systems. Media coverage and public perception have played a significant role in shaping Musk’s image as a clean energy visionary. Elon Musk’s visionary leadership and ambitious goals have captured the public’s imagination and inspired confidence in the potential of clean energy technologies to address pressing environmental challenges, such as climate change and air pollution.

An Indian Perspective – is it the solution?

India faces significant environmental challenges, including air pollution in major cities and the impact of climate change. The adoption of electric vehicles is seen as a crucial step in reducing pollution and mitigating the effects of climate change.The Indian government has set ambitious targets for reducing carbon emissions and increasing the share of renewable energy in the country’s energy mix, with electric vehicles playing a central role in achieving these goals. But the current downside is that India is heavily reliant on imported fossil fuels, particularly oil, to meet its transportation needs. Electric vehicles offer an opportunity to reduce dependence on imported oil and enhance energy security by leveraging domestic sources of electricity, including renewable energy. By promoting electric mobility, India aims to reduce its vulnerability to fluctuations in global oil prices and geopolitical tensions that could disrupt oil supplies. Government incentives and policies aimed at promoting electric two-wheelers and three-wheelers, which are widely used for short-distance trips in urban areas, have contributed to the growth of electric mobility in India. The Indian government has launched initiatives such as the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles (FAME) scheme to promote the adoption of electric vehicles and support domestic manufacturing of EV components and infrastructure. Despite significant progress, India faces challenges in scaling up electric vehicle adoption, including the high upfront cost of EVs, limited charging infrastructure, range anxiety, and consumer awareness. Addressing these challenges requires coordinated efforts from government, industry, and other stakeholders to implement supportive policies, invest in charging infrastructure, incentivize EV adoption, and raise awareness about the benefits of electric mobility. India also sees opportunities in leveraging its expertise in software development, renewable energy, and manufacturing to become a global leader in electric mobility and contribute to the global transition to sustainable transportation.

Future from the Science Laboratory:

Continued research and development in science especially in battery technology aim to increase energy density, reduce charging times, and lower costs. Solid-state batteries, which promise higher energy density and improved safety compared to traditional lithium-ion batteries, are a focus of research and development. Ultra-fast charging technologies, such as high-power chargers capable of delivering hundreds of kilowatts of power, and wireless charging technologies are being deployed to reduce charging times and increase the practicality of long-distance travel and also to charge without physical contact with charging stations, is being developed for both stationary and dynamic charging applications. Permanent magnet motors, synchronous reluctance motors, and other motor technologies are being optimized for different vehicle types and applications. Integrated drivetrain solutions, combining motors, power electronics, and transmissions into compact and efficient packages, are improving overall vehicle performance and energy efficiency. Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology enables bidirectional energy flow between electric vehicles and the electricity grid, allowing EVs to store and discharge energy to support grid stability, reduce peak demand, and participate in energy markets. Lightweight materials, such as advanced composites, aluminum alloys, and high-strength steel, are being used to reduce vehicle weight and improve energy efficiency without compromising safety or structural integrity. Aerodynamic design optimization, including active aerodynamics and drag-reducing features, is enhancing vehicle aerodynamics to reduce air resistance and increase range. 

Hydrogen fuel cells , often referred to as “hydrogen batteries,” which is under development are an alternative power source for electric vehicles (EVs) that generate electricity through an electrochemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen which helps in zero emissions, longer range and scalability but not without challenges including limited availability of hydrogen refueling infrastructure, cost and overall efficiency. Superconductivity from a theoretical perspective, while not directly used in electric vehicles (EVs) for propulsion, has potential applications in certain components and technologies related to EVs such as high efficiency motors using superconducting materials , superconducting magnetic energy storage systems and efficient power grid integration. Recent developments in Quantum Mechanical principles and technologies have the potential to offer several improvements and advancements in electric vehicles (EVs), particularly in areas related to energy storage, materials science, computing, and sensing such as in advanced battery materials, superior energy conversion, quantum computing for optimization, advance sensors for imaging and secure networking.

Geopolitic stunt – Race to zero emission:

Policy change for electric vehicles (EVs) in the future is likely to be influenced by various factors, including technological advancements, market dynamics, environmental concerns, energy security considerations, and political priorities. Governments may introduce or strengthen regulations and standards to promote the adoption of EVs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. This could include tightening fuel efficiency standards, implementing emissions regulations, and establishing vehicle electrification targets. Incentive programs such as tax credits, rebates, subsidies, and grants can encourage consumers to purchase EVs, incentivize investments in EV charging infrastructure, and support research and development in electric vehicle technologies. Some jurisdictions may adopt zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandates or electric vehicle quotas, requiring automakers to sell a certain percentage of electric or zero-emission vehicles in their fleets.Incentives or mandates for the installation of charging infrastructure in new residential and commercial buildings, parking facilities, and public spaces can also facilitate EV adoption and accessibility. Fleet electrification programs for government agencies, public transportation systems, and commercial fleets can serve as models for EV adoption and demonstrate the feasibility and benefits of transitioning to electric transportation. Initiatives such as the Paris Agreement on climate change, international forums, and partnerships for clean energy and sustainable transportation can foster collaboration and coordination on electric vehicle policies and initiatives. 

Sky is not the limit:

Electric vehicles (EVs) are not only transforming terrestrial transportation but are also making strides in air and space travel. Electric propulsion technology is being developed for small aircraft, drones, and urban air mobility (UAM) vehicles. Electric airplanes promise lower operating costs, reduced noise pollution, and lower emissions compared to traditional combustion-powered aircraft. Companies like Airbus, Boeing, and startups such as Eviation, Joby Aviation, and Lilium are working on electric and hybrid-electric aircraft designs for various applications, including regional commuting, air taxis, cargo transportation, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).Electric propulsion systems used in spacecrafts, such as ion thrusters and Hall-effect thrusters, use electric power to accelerate ions or other propellant to generate thrust which in turn can be used in satellites, deep-space missions, and interplanetary spacecraft, including communication satellites, scientific probes, and interplanetary missions.Advances in solar panels, battery technology, and electric propulsion systems are driving innovation in electric spacecraft design, enabling longer missions, greater manoeuvrability, and enhanced mission capabilities.