ABOUT ELECTRIFYING RIDESELECTRIFING RIDES: The Electric Vehicles of the Past Decade... and the Next takes you on an improbable journey through time and technology from the steel gray waters of the English Channel to the chalk gray surface of the Moon to explain how the revival of the electric car came about and where it's taking us.
Though it seems counter-intuitive, the modern era of the EV (electric vehicle) began in the air and not on the ground with the flight of a fragile, human-powered aircraft made of aluminum and mylar plastic. When Bryan Allen, struggling with leg cramps, dehydration and fatigue, triumphantly set down the Gossamer Albatross (the second variant of which is pictured at the left) on the sands of Cap Gris-Nez, on the French side of the English Channel on June 12, 1979, he unwittingly set in motion the resurrection of a technology long-consigned to the footnotes of history.
Two years earlier, Allen and his mentor, Dr. Paul MacCready had won their first Kremer Prize for sustained human-powered flight over a mile-long, figure-eight course in the Albatross' predecessor, the Gossamer Condor. That flight, as daunting as it was, took just over seven minutes and covered 1.35 miles. The flight across the Channel would be 35.8 km (22.2 mi) -- 26-times further than the flight at Minter Field back in California -- and take nearly three hours, all of it over water (1).
Six years earlier, the last of three, multi-million dollar electric vehicles completed its own mission along the waterless -- and airless -- Sea of Serenity. When Apollo 17 astronauts Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt switched off their LVR (lunar roving vehicle), it had carried them, during three exploratory missions over as many day across the Moon's rugged Taurus-Littrow region, almost exactly the same distance as the Albatross had carried Allen: 35.9 km (22.3 mi).
As far apart in space and time as these two incongruous events might seem, a common thread -- beyond the uncanny similarity in distance -- not only binds them but also constitutes a double helix of sorts that is the common DNA of virtually all contemporary -- and future -- electric cars. These entwining, interlocking strands are themselves comprised of a surprising small subset of individuals, a sort of human ATGC, that binds and breaks and binds again into new, but always familiar organisms, each with its own unique story, only a fraction of which can be told in Electrifying Rides. We trust those we've chosen will convey to you the reader, a sense of the urgency and excitement that has propelled a long dormant technology from the night of irrelevance into the brilliant daylight of necessity.