Did you know the very first Porsche ever designed was electric?

Ferdinand Porsche might have founded his famous car company in 1948, but he designed his very first car all the way back in 1898, when he was just 22 years old.


Imagine this chassis with two racks of seats on top and you'll see Porsche's vision. Image from Porsche.

Officially the 1898 Egger-Lohner electric vehicle, C.2 Phaeton, Porsche's first car is more affectionately known as the P1. Incredibly, it didn't need a single drop of gas — the P1 was powered by a small electric motor.

Yep, that's right. It was an electric car.

So yeah, electric cars are actually super old. Like, as old as cars themselves.

An electric car in England, 1896. Photo from Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

The first practical electric car was invented in 1884, back when we as humans were still, you know, figuring out what the heck a car was.

In fact, by 1900, more than a third of all vehicles on the road were electric. (Gas-powered cars made up just 22%, and the rest were steam-powered.)

Just like today's electric cars, the electric cars of a century ago had some major advantages over early gas-powered vehicles.

Early gas cars were clunky, loud, and dirty. Worse, drivers had to physically wrestle with the car to get it to move — every gear shift or hand-cranked start-up involved essentially arm-wrestling an ornery, hateful robot.

Thomas Edison posing with an electric car, 1895. Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images.

Electric cars, on the other hand, were easy to start, easy to drive, and quiet. They weren't exactly fast or long-range vehicles (they only went about 20 miles an hour), but this wasn't a problem in cities, where cars were primarily used. Plus the roads outside the city were pretty bad, and no one wanted to drive out there anyway.

These early electric cars had some major fans, too. The famous entrepreneur Thomas Edison backed electric cars, and even Henry Ford explored them as an option.

If electric cars had so many great benefits, why didn't they catch on? What went wrong?

Today, Texas is known for its gigantic crude oil production — but back around the turn of the century, we were just really starting to drill, baby, drill. Then, on Jan. 10, 1901, the Lucas No. 1 well in Spindletop blew its top, dramatically ushering in an era of cheap, readily available gasoline for America.

The Spindletop gusher, Jan. 10, 1901. Photo from John Trost/Wikimedia Commons.

In 1908, Henry Ford dealt a second blow to electric cars when he unveiled the gas-powered Ford Model T.

Largely thanks to Ford's use of an assembly line, the Model T was much cheaper than any other cars out there, costing only about a third as much as a comparable electric car.

A later model of the super-cheap Model T, the Model T Couplet, way back in 1914. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

Plus, with the advent of the highway system, people wanted fast, cheap, powerful cars that they could use anywhere.

It's hard to imagine now, but at the time we also just didn't have the infrastructure to support electric cars. Today, you can get electricity pretty much anywhere. Before 1910, however, a lot of urban homes weren't wired for electricity, meaning people couldn't charge their cars at home. And electric cars certainly weren't an option for anyone living in a rural area where electricity wasn't even a thing.

Weirdly, sexism may have also played a role in the success of gas-guzzlers.

Electric cars were cleaner and easier to operate, and were therefore often marketed specifically toward women — gaining a reputation as being a woman's car.

I wish I were joking. Image from Rmherman/Wikimedia Commons.

This may have scared men away from purchasing them, driving them to buy gasoline-powered cars and, ugh, history, really?

Anyway, between weird marketing stigmatization, the low cost of crude oil, the much more affordable Model T, and the introduction of the highway system, by the 1930s, electric cars were pretty much gone.

Today, though, the advantages to electric cars are largely the same — and a lot of the disadvantages are a thing of the past.

Electric cars of today are still cleaner and quieter than gasoline-powered vehicles, and we're quickly solving a lot of the issues like cost and driving range.

Electric cars have historically been more expensive, but both Tesla and Chevy have announced they'll be producing electric cars in the actually-kind-of-affordable $30,000 range. Plus we've learned that while gasoline has been cheap, our exuberance for burning it and other fossil fuels has been writing the entire planet a massive bill — to the tune of over $1.9 trillion a year by 2100.

That just leaves infrastructure for charging electric cars, which, it turns out, has been growing up right under our noses.

We're still lacking a lot of the infrastructure we'll need to make electric cars truly ubiquitous, but it's slowly starting to appear.

A Tesla Supercharger in Fremont, California. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Tesla has been building a gigantic network of Superchargers, and ChargePoint claims to have more than 28,000 chargers ready for public use. Many non-car-related businesses like Walgreens are starting to provide charging stations in order to entice customers as well.

There are even services that let people with charging points at their homes rent them out to other electric car owners. One company, Fisker, even had an idea for a hybrid car that could charge via solar panels on the roof, meaning even needing to find a charging station may one day be a thing of the past.

To bring this story full circle, guess who's getting back into the electric car game?

That's right: Porsche.

A rendering of the Porsche Mission E concept car. Image from Porsche.

118 years after Ferdinand Porsche designed the P1, Porsche announced an electric car of its own: the Mission E. Originally just a concept car, Porsche has finally decided to put it into production.

Electric cars aren't a new fad — they're intimately tied to the very history of automobiles.

While there are some things they'll never do quite as well as gas-powered cars — like revving your engine before a big race — it's awesome to see that we might finally be entering an era where gas and electric cars are sharing the road again.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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