Electric cars have been around since the 1800s. But, back then, they were not optimized anywhere near today’s capabilities. Yet, in the 1970s, one outfit decided to make a vehicle meant to traverse unknown territories by using electric propulsion. That electric vehicle, or EV, would be captured on film and go on to capture the imaginations of people around the world. And, it is still around, although the battery system is almost certainly dead.
The need for a unique EV
Although EVs have been around for almost 200 years, a significant event in the 1960s would bring them on the world stage. In the 1960s, there was a big push for the United States to get to the moon. It inspired many scientists and engineers to find a safe way to get there. In June 1969, that goal was achieved. That milestone opened the way for more exploration on following missions. Things like core samples and moon rocks would need to be gathered. Pictures would need to be taken, gravity tests would need to be performed, and so on.
The doors were wide open for exploration. But a man can only go so far in his spacesuit. So, it was devised to create a lunar vehicle that could take astronauts where they needed to go on the moon’s surface. That vehicle, however, would have to handle terrain that could sometimes be rugged. The end result would be an EV.
NASA’s Lunar Rover
NASA developed the Lunar Rover with friends at Boeing to meet the needs of surface exploration. The Apollo space program would then deliver that vehicle to the moon. So, on July 31, 1971, lunar mobility became a reality as astronauts drove on the moon’s surface. An LRV would be sent up with each of the Apollo 15, 16, and 17 missions. They are still there.
“The Lunar Rover proved to be the reliable, safe and flexible lunar exploration vehicle we expected it to be. Without it, the major scientific discoveries of Apollo 15, 16, and 17 would not have been possible; and our current understanding of lunar evolution would not have been possible.” – Scientist-astronaut Harrison Schmitt
Porsche honors the LRV in its own push for EV growh
The automotive industry as a whole has been making a big push toward the electrification of their model lineups. Although Tesla has given many of them the inspiration to get onboard with electrification more quickly, perhaps the most poignant inspiration comes from the LRV. That EV transcended Earth’s boundaries in bringing mankind forward.
As a show of respect, and to honor what the LRVs were able to accomplish fifty years ago, Porsche recently released a video on YouTube spotlighting the early EV advancement from the 1970s. The automaker went so far as to track down one of the astronauts that drove an LRV on the moon and interview him about his experience with the vehicle. He recalled it fondly and advised that he knew where to find an eight million dollar EV if anybody needed one. The video is posted below.
An astronaut takes a modern EV for a spin
Astonishingly, the astronaut, Charles Duke, had never driven a modern EV. So, after the interview, they let him take a new Porsche Taycan Turbo S out for a spin and filmed his reaction. The video is above.
Will there ever be full 100 percent electrification of the automotive sector? Probably not in our lifetimes. There will always be people that prefer the visceral feel that an internal combustion engine provides. Nonetheless, the LRV and Tesla have inspired generations and proven that EVs have a place with us now and in our future. I, for one, am glad to live at the point in time that I get to experience both.