There are many modern machines that make use of electric motors. Electric motors operate by electromagnetism, which was discovered by Han Christian Oersted in 1820. Michael Faraday followed through on Oersted's discovery in 1821, as he conducted experiments to prove or refute speculations about electromagnetism raised by Oersted and his contemporaries. 50 years after Faraday's experiments, Zenobe Theophile Gramme introduced the first electric motor that would have a commercial impact.
The invention of the electric motor revolutionized life in the home. The electric washing machine, invented Alva J. Fisher in 1906, is a common home appliance that makes use of an electric motor. Other home appliances that use electric motors include clothes dryers, vacuum cleaners, fans, air conditioners, refrigerators and freezers.
As electric motor technology has progressed, smaller electric motors have been developed. Small electric motors are used in a variety of electronic applications; one of the most common uses for these small motors is in a computer, spinning the CD drive and the cooling fan. In addition to computers, electric motors are used in many other small electronic devices, including hand-held hair dryers, can openers, electric knives, electric razors and hair and beard trimmers.
One common industrial application of electric motors is an electric forklift. The motors in electric forklifts are powered by large batteries that charge from an external power source. The motors in electric forklifts not only provide locomotion for the forklifts, but also power the hydraulics used for lifting heavy loads. Other industrial uses for electric motors include tools, such as lathes, drill presses and saws. The building industry relies heavily upon tools powered by electric motors, with many construction tools like hand-held saws and drills powered by electric motors.
Electric motors power various types of transportation. Subway trains that transport people through subterranean railways are powered by electric motors. There are also environmentally friendly electric cars that are powered by electric motors. While electric cars save money on fuel, in many areas there is not a sufficient infrastructure of charging stations for the cars' lithium batteries to make them a practical option. Other modes of transportation powered by electric motors include electric golf carts and Segways, which are two-wheeled vehicles used in urban environments.