130 years ago the World’s first electric car was built by Victorian inventor in 1884 …
Thomas Parker: World’s first electric car – built by Victorian inventor in 1884. Thomas Parker is in the light suit in the front of the car.
First practical electric car, built by Thomas Parker in 1884.
Rechargeable batteries that provided a viable means for storing electricity on board a vehicle did not come into being until 1859, with the invention of the lead-acid battery by French physicist Gaston Planté.
Thomas Parker, responsible for innovations such as electrifying the London Underground, overhead tramways in Liverpool and Birmingham, built the first practical production electric car in London in 1884, using his own specially designed high-capacity rechargeable batteries. Parker’s long-held interest in the construction of more fuel-efficient vehicles led him to experiment with electric vehicles. He also may have been concerned about the malign effects smoke and pollution were having in London.
An alternative contender as the world’s first electric car was the German Flocken Elektrowagen, built in 1888.
Electric cars were reasonably popular in the late 19th century and early 20th century, when electricity was among the preferred methods for automobile propulsion, providing a level of comfort and ease of operation that could not be achieved by the gasoline cars of the time. Advances in internal combustion technology, especially the electric starter, soon lessened the relative advantages of the electric car. The greater range of gasoline cars, and their much quicker refueling times, encouraged a rapid expansion of petroleum infrastructure, which quickly proved decisive. The mass production of gasoline-powered vehicles, by companies such as the Ford Motor Company, reduced prices of gasoline-engined cars to less than half that of equivalent electric cars, and that inevitably led to a decline in the use of electric propulsion, effectively removing it from the automobile market by the early 1930s.
So what has changed? What makes the Tesla so different then the electric vehicles of the 1930’s and all the reasons that made them disappear. What has changed now in 2014 to make them survive? Do you think Tesla will pull this off 130 years after this invention came out?
3D printing chocolate is a cool idea, and someone is trying to patent it
Yes, but does it come in fruit ‘n’ nut? Jens-Ulrich Koch/dapd
If there is one thing the patent wars in the mobile industry have taught us, it is that the price of innovation can be ruinously expensive. By one estimate, there are over 250,000 active patents affecting smartphones, or about 16% of all patents presently in force in America. One reason for that astonishing number is that patents are granted not just for groundbreaking innovations but also for relatively straightforward things such as the “slide-to-unlock” feature on the iPhone. That means lawsuits or hefty license fees for those who want build on existing work.
Observers fear that the young and rapidly growing field of 3D printing could fall into the same morass. At the moment, 3D printing is seeing a lot of innovation coming from enthusiasts who openly publish and share their work. But if applications to patent similar technology are granted, that means innovators may find themselves unable to use existing ideas for the 20-year life of a US patent.
A coalition of groups is now trying to ensure this does not happen. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a two-decades-old American digital rights advocacy teamed up with the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard and Ask Patents, a Q&A site, to challenge a series of 3D printing-related patents pending approval in the US. Among these is one that seeks to patent the technology required to 3D print chocolate.
Kit Walsh, a lawyer at the Cyberlaw Clinic, says that challenging that particular patent is not really about chocolate, but about the idea that chocolate is just another material that can be melted and later solidified into new shapes. “If you let people get patents on every material that has those properties, you’re going to occupy 3D printing,” he said over the phone from Cambridge, MA.
The goal of the coalition stretches beyond protecting 3D printing. Walsh says they will expand their efforts to challenge patents related to mesh networking technology, a new form of wireless communication. But the bigger idea is that their submissions could serve as a model for people who want to use a new procedure.
The group uses a provision in the America Invents Act, a new law that updates the United States’ creaking patent rules. The provision allows third parties—anybody from interested individuals to big corporations—to submit “prior art” that could help patent examiners determine whether an invention is obvious, and therefore unworthy of a patent. It is particularly enlightened law that should help those seeking to challenge patents as well as examiners themselves.
For challengers, it means a relatively simple, lawyer-free method of submitting prior art. In the past, the only procedure was a re-examination request, which could cost up to $20,000. By contrast, the new procedure is free for anybody making less than three submissions and just $180 for every 10.
Examiners too benefit because 3D printing covers a number of disciplines from chemistry to mechanical engineering. Individual examiners cannot be experts in every field, so additional submissions help them make better decisions.