The Electric Vehicle and the Burden of History

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9780813528090: The Electric Vehicle and the Burden of History
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Was the electric car ever a viable competitor for the petrol one? This book examines the relationship of technology, society and environment to choice, policy and outcome in the history of American transportation.

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The electric vehicle of historian David Kirsch's title is an old technology that seems ever on the verge of making a comeback. In the late 1890s, the electric engine competed with steam- and gasoline-driven engines to become the standard for automobile manufacturers, and it remained competitive for nearly a decade until, in the early 1900s, the internal-combustion engine captured the market.

It did so for complex reasons, few of them, in Kirsch's account, having to do with purely technological issues. Enter the "burden of history", a fruitful notion that reminds us that deterministic ideas of why things are the way they are--for example, that the lead-acid battery held insufficient power to carry cars over long distances without recharging, whence the victory of the more easily replenished internal-combustion engine--are often only half right, if that. Kirsch urges that those concerned with analysing the wherefores of the past take into consideration multiple causes, and not always the most apparent ones: the automobile, he continues, is not simply a machine, but "a material embodiment of the dynamic interaction of consumers and producers, private and public institutions, existing and potential capabilities, and prevailing ideas about gender, health, and the environment". In short, the automobile is a system unto itself, and how it came to take its present form--unchanged in many respects over more than a hundred years--is a story that involves many episodes.

Kirsch's account of some of those episodes provides a solid case study for students of technological history, and for those who press for new means of transportation in the new century. --Gregory McNamee

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David A. Kirsch
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Book Description Rutgers University Press, United States, 2000. Paperback. Condition: New. New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. In the late 1890s, at the dawn of the automobile era, steam, gasoline, and electric cars all competed to become the dominant automotive technology. By the early 1900s, the battle was over and internal combustion had won. Was the electric car ever a viable competitor? What characteristics of late nineteenth-century American society led to the choice of internal combustion over its steam and electric competitors? And might not other factors, under slightly differing initial conditions, have led to the adoption of one of the other motive powers as the technological standard for the American automobile? David A. Kirsch examines the relationship of technology, society, and environment to choice, policy, and outcome in the history of American transportation. He takes the history of the Electric Vehicle Company as a starting point for a vision of an alternative automotive system in which gasoline and electric vehicles would have each been used to supply different kinds of transport services. Kirsch examines both the support--and lack thereof--for electric vehicles by the electric utility industry. Turning to the history of the electric truck, he explores the demise of the idea that different forms of transportation technology might coexist, each in its own distinct sphere of service. A main argument throughout Kirsch s book is that technological superiority cannot be determined devoid of social context. In the case of the automobile, technological superiority ultimately was located in the hearts and minds of engineers, consumers and drivers; it was not programmed inexorably into the chemical bonds of a gallon of refined petroleum. Finally, Kirsch connects the historic choice of internal combustion over electricity to current debates about the social and environmental impacts of the automobile, the introduction of new hybrid vehicles, and the continuing evolution of the American transportation system. Seller Inventory # TNP9780813528090

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Book Description Rutgers University Press, United States, 2000. Paperback. Condition: New. New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In the late 1890s, at the dawn of the automobile era, steam, gasoline, and electric cars all competed to become the dominant automotive technology. By the early 1900s, the battle was over and internal combustion had won. Was the electric car ever a viable competitor? What characteristics of late nineteenth-century American society led to the choice of internal combustion over its steam and electric competitors? And might not other factors, under slightly differing initial conditions, have led to the adoption of one of the other motive powers as the technological standard for the American automobile? David A. Kirsch examines the relationship of technology, society, and environment to choice, policy, and outcome in the history of American transportation. He takes the history of the Electric Vehicle Company as a starting point for a vision of an alternative automotive system in which gasoline and electric vehicles would have each been used to supply different kinds of transport services. Kirsch examines both the support--and lack thereof--for electric vehicles by the electric utility industry. Turning to the history of the electric truck, he explores the demise of the idea that different forms of transportation technology might coexist, each in its own distinct sphere of service. A main argument throughout Kirsch s book is that technological superiority cannot be determined devoid of social context. In the case of the automobile, technological superiority ultimately was located in the hearts and minds of engineers, consumers and drivers; it was not programmed inexorably into the chemical bonds of a gallon of refined petroleum. Finally, Kirsch connects the historic choice of internal combustion over electricity to current debates about the social and environmental impacts of the automobile, the introduction of new hybrid vehicles, and the continuing evolution of the American transportation system. Seller Inventory # AAC9780813528090

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Book Description Rutgers University Press, United States, 2000. Paperback. Condition: New. New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In the late 1890s, at the dawn of the automobile era, steam, gasoline, and electric cars all competed to become the dominant automotive technology. By the early 1900s, the battle was over and internal combustion had won. Was the electric car ever a viable competitor? What characteristics of late nineteenth-century American society led to the choice of internal combustion over its steam and electric competitors? And might not other factors, under slightly differing initial conditions, have led to the adoption of one of the other motive powers as the technological standard for the American automobile? David A. Kirsch examines the relationship of technology, society, and environment to choice, policy, and outcome in the history of American transportation. He takes the history of the Electric Vehicle Company as a starting point for a vision of an alternative automotive system in which gasoline and electric vehicles would have each been used to supply different kinds of transport services. Kirsch examines both the support--and lack thereof--for electric vehicles by the electric utility industry. Turning to the history of the electric truck, he explores the demise of the idea that different forms of transportation technology might coexist, each in its own distinct sphere of service. A main argument throughout Kirsch s book is that technological superiority cannot be determined devoid of social context. In the case of the automobile, technological superiority ultimately was located in the hearts and minds of engineers, consumers and drivers; it was not programmed inexorably into the chemical bonds of a gallon of refined petroleum. Finally, Kirsch connects the historic choice of internal combustion over electricity to current debates about the social and environmental impacts of the automobile, the introduction of new hybrid vehicles, and the continuing evolution of the American transportation system. Seller Inventory # AAC9780813528090

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