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Electric motors – back to the beginnings of the automotive industry

Electric cars by Tesla, BMW or Nio are considered visionary, innovative and a sign of modern mobility. Railways around the world have long been using electric motors for their locomotives, and ships are also using environmentally-friendly power sources in slewing drives and submarines. In recent decades, only the automotive industry has remained almost entirely dependent on the internal combustion engine. Things are changing – electric cars are growing in demand like never before.

Every beginning is hard

When Allessandro Volta developed the Volta Pillar in 1800, the first electric battery in human history, the inventor created the foundation of modern mobility. Scottish car pioneer Robert Anderson took this innovative invention and developed it from 1832 to 1839 into the first ‘electric cart’, the precursor to the electric car.

In Germany, the Coburger manufacturer Andreas Flocken had developed the ‘Flocken Electrolude’, the electrically powered competitor to Carl Benz's ‘Motor Vehicle Number 1’ three years before Benz. Flocken's 400-kilogram vehicle was very similar in design to a carriage, but it reached a maximum speed of 15 km/h.

At that time, engineers, inventors and hobbyists all over the world started designing their own electric cars. They were so successful that in 1900, there were almost 34,000 electric cars were driving on the roads of the United States alone.

Cheap oil and greater range

After their invention, electric vehicles enjoyed growing popularity at the turn of the century as they had three great advantages over their petrol-powered competitors. They started comfortably without using the unloved hand crank, drove free of deafening noise, and did not emit any unpleasant smoke. Most commercial car manufacturers, therefore, used electric power at the time.

The fact that, just 20 years later, the highly praised electric cars played almost no part in the automotive industry at all, was not so much due to technology as to the huge influence of the oil industry. John D. Rockefeller’ Standard Oil Company flooded the US and friendly nations’ markets with cheap oil. Also, the invention of the electric actuator in 1911 did away with the need for a hand crank.

With this convenience and cheap petrol, the internal combustion engine was able to cash in on its biggest advantage: greater range.

Returning to environmentally friendly drive technology

With rising air pollution, efforts to limit climate change, and the oil-price shock following the outbreak of the Gulf War, in the 1990s saw the beginning of a reversal to environmentally-friendly drive technology. As a result, several European countries even decided to completely phase out the internal combustion engine.

Engineers and scientists increasingly focussed on researching new electric motors and power accumulators to tackle the range problem. The trend was clearly pointing towards a radical lightweight design with increasingly innovative materials. This trend is one of the reasons for the success of Bilstein & Siekermann®. Thanks to cold forming and innovative techniques, we have the expertise to help automotive manufacturers use aluminium, natural or composite materials.

Mass-production electric cars

Today, companies like Tesla are struggling to meet the huge demand for electric vehicles, and established car manufacturers are geared towards mass production. These are ideal conditions for Bilstein & Siekermann®, as at an early stage, we focussed the company on quality, efficiency and global market presence.

Bilstein & Siekermann® manages its expertise from more than 60 years of experience in the innovative InTech+ knowledge base to accelerate innovation and adaptation. We attach great importance to employee satisfaction and training to keep the company’s knowledge and know-how in the organisation. We ensure short delivery times by producing locally, such as our subsidiary in China.

We perfected quality and reliability for cars in the age of internal combustion engines, now we have added efficiency and innovation to the production of the electric cars of today and tomorrow.

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