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A History Lesson- Automotive, Electrification, and Beyond

electric vehicles

An Exploration of Automotive and Manufacturing History

The world is heating up and much like the necessity to flatten the curve of infectious diseases running rampant, it has been made strikingly clear that flattening the greenhouse gas emissions curve is imperative. To achieve this drawdown, carbon neutrality across industries is the objective before we can start to ‘reverse’ or think about cooling and what that might look like. The total electrification of the energy grid, the elimination of every form of fossil fuel combustion, and ceasing to continue building things that require flame are at the crux of said improvement. And as stated in Paul Hawken’s, Regeneration, “Achieving this is not a pipe dream or children’s crusade. It is pure physics and straightforward economics. Electrifying every flow of energy will reduce the cost of energy for virtually everyone, rich or poor. It will require equitable financial tools so that the transition is affordable for all parties.”

Zooming in to the automotive industry, EVs have resurfaced and are here to stay. The latest report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that by 2025 EVs will reach 10% of global passenger vehicle sales, growing to 28% in 2030 and 58% by 2040. According to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector have doubled since 1970 rising at a faster rate than any other sector, with approximately 80% of this attributable to road vehicles.

How Did We Get Here?

Did you know that the first useful electric vehicle debuted in 1889 in Des Moines, Iowa? Chemist William Morrison created a battery powered vehicle resembling a horseless carriage that reached a top speed of 14 miles per hr. By 1900, EVs accounted for roughly a third of all vehicles in the US. Electric car sales stayed strong for another decade until the petroleum powered mass production of the Model T. EVs were forced to the sidelines, where they remained until the 1970 energy crisis rekindled interest.[1]

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Comic Brake Cavemen

Image via Terry LaBan

After roaming the planet in small bands for millennia, humans decided to settle in villages where we find the origins of agriculture, clothing, tools, pottery, etc. Early cities faced the challenge of managing mobility as they began to trade and transport goods. Wheeled carts, animals carrying goods, animals towing wheeled carts and even boat plying canal systems in Venice and Bangkok demonstrate innovation in these areas of early transportation.[2]

Fast forward to the early 20th century when cities began embracing gas powered vehicles. The aforementioned Model T assembly line of 1908 happened and by 1927, just 9 years later, 15 million had been sold. The rise of the automobile changed city infrastructure design and patterns of mobility. Urban planners began designing for the needs of trucks and cars, failing pedestrians and cyclists in many ways.

Back to the Future


Transitioning from internal combustion to electric engines will not achieve climate goals all on its own and this transition will not happen overnight. Changes in travel behavior will also have to adjust. This will involve people biking, ride sharing, and utilizing public transport on electrified buses and trains as well.[3] To support the growth of electric entails expansion of existing charging infrastructure along with convergence of existing vehicles and many other attributing factors.

The automotive, manufacturing, and energy landscapes prove to be complex. As Keith Tomatore details the automotive landscape further in For Heritage OEMs and EV-Only, Challenges and Opportunities Abound, the rise of electric vehicles has created two distinct types of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in the industry. These changes will need to be further addressed digitally as corporations continue to scale with the intentions of providing the best products and experiences for their consumers.

The Here and Now

As we propel into a more electrified world, leaders in manufacturing and automotive have successfully embraced the digital customer experience. For manufacturers, many complex factors overlay this priority: supply chain challenges, partner ecosystems, complex product and customer data, technical expertise, and marketing interactions, just to name a few.

In a Forrester Total Economic Impact™ study commissioned by Perficient, 71% of buyers can choose a dealer, distributor, or other partner after a digital-only journey. After all, it is the end-to-end experience that fosters brand loyalty and high customer satisfaction ratings.

All of this is only possible with the right technology in place. That’s why Perficient relies on crème-of-the-crop solutions, to provide the foundation needed for our clients to truly become Experience Makers. With solid footing, clients can evolve with the changing digital landscape.

Download our latest Manufacturing and Automotive Lookbook for a peek into how Perficient and Adobe are helping transform the automotive and manufacturing landscape.


[1] Regeneration Paul Hawken

[2] Regeneration Paul Hawken

[3] Regeneration Paul Hawken





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Nicole Onate

Nicole Onate is a Marketing Manager at Perficient. As a part of the Partner Marketing team, she is aligned with and supports the Adobe practice. With 6 years of experience in the consulting world covering a myriad of industries including insurance, retail, and digital marketing experiences, she hopes to deliver knowledge that helps corporations and individuals share their stories.

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