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(Oral Bac 2014 G1-G2)

It may be hard to imagine but over a century ago, sales of electric vehicles outstripped gas-driven car sales in the U.S. At the turn of the 20th century, as many as 30,000 electric cars took to the roads, including a fleet of taxis. But when mass production of petroleum cars began in the early 1900s, electric cars simply couldn't compete. Gas-fueled cars cost half as much and could travel further and at faster speeds.

It would take six decades before electric cars would make their comeback, driven by the oil crisis of the 1970s, which set in motion two decades of experiments and futuristic new model launches. But the cars all came with limitations and costs that prevented them from becoming popular.

It wasn't until 1997, when the first hybrid rolled onto the streets of Japan, that a practical eco-conscious car finally arrived. By reducing the gap between electric and gas engines, these cars became an immediate success--selling more than 100,000 units with its first model and reaching the two million mark by 2009. These cars soon became an international symbol of environmental progress.

Today, the electrification of the passenger car is moving rapidly in many directions. Recent advances in lithium-ion battery technology have helped re-launch electric cars. An early leader in electric engine technology is collaborating with other car manufacturers to develop new models.

Adapted from Time, 2011

Vocabulary:

to outstrip: dévancer

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