By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer
Rivian has earned $8 billion toward its electric pickup truck, launching this year, Axios reported. Electric vehicles have been gaining in popularity in recent years and have made for happy investors and owners, like Elon Musk. Electricity and cars saw milestones in the 1880s.
According to Axios, the electric vehicle startup company Rivian has gained considerable momentum as it nears the launch of its electric pickup truck later this year. “Rivian continues to attract big money from private investors, even as other startups take advantage of Wall Street enthusiasm for EVs by going public through a series of mergers with special purpose acquisition companies,” the article said.
“Rivian has now raised $8 billion since the start of 2019, and is valued at an estimated $27.6 billion, according to sources familiar with the transaction.”
Although the earliest automobiles were steam-powered, both electricity and cars experienced major milestones in the same decade—the 1880s.
Out with the Old …
In the late 1870s and early 1880s, Charles Brush helped develop arc lighting for dozens of cities. However, the future wasn’t as bright for him as one would expect.
“As it turned out, arc lighting was to be a short-lived phenomenon, and that’s because a man named Thomas Edison had invented a successful incandescent light bulb in 1879,” said Dr. Edward O’Donnell, Associate Professor of History at the College of the Holy Cross, in a lecture for The Great Courses.
“Edison built an electric power generation plant on Pearl Street in lower Manhattan, and on September 4, 1882, he flipped the switch to illuminate a one-square mile area around Wall Street and the financial district. Over the next few years, outdoor lighting by incandescent bulbs became the national standard.”
Dr. O’Donnell said that Edison’s outdoor incandescent lighting rapidly replaced both old-fashioned gas lighting systems, which had been in place since the 1820s, and Brush’s arc lighting.
Indoor electric lighting followed, starting with more high-end buildings like opera houses and mansions before being implemented in hotels, office buildings, and residences.
… And in with the New
Electricity wasn’t the only major technology to advance in the 1880s. Automobiles got a serious shot in the arm as well.
“Early versions of the automobile were first invented in Europe; they relied upon steam power and moved at a top speed of only 15 mph,” Dr. O’Donnell said. “Automobile technology took a great leap forward in the 1880s, when two German inventors named Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz, who were actually working separately, invented automobiles that used internal combustion engines.”
Inspired by Daimler’s and Benz’s internal combustion engines, automobile manufacturers started growing by leaps and bounds. Dr. O’Donnell said that the first gasoline-powered automobile in America was constructed by brothers Charles and Frank Duryea in 1893.
By 1899, 30 automobile manufacturers sold cars. Ten years later, 485 automobile companies were established, including two affordable models: the original Oldsmobile and the Ford Model T. Shortly thereafter, Ford made major breakthroughs in the assembly line process, reducing production time and cost and establishing automobiles as an affordable expense, rather than a plaything for the wealthy.
Electric vehicles marry the two technologies. Elon Musk’s Tesla is the biggest success story, but Rivian could end up following closely behind—which may technically be tailgating.
This article contains material taught by Dr. Edward T. O’Donnell. Dr. O’Donnell is an Associate Professor of History at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. He earned his PhD in American History from Columbia University.