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Factors to Consider When Comparing Electric Cars – What to Look For?

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Electric Car

These days when you think of going for an electric car, there are a variety of options available on the market. The electric car market has boomed as car manufacturers and people have realized how much better electric cars are for the environment. There are various types of electric cars that employ different technologies, so it can sometimes be hard to choose as the choice can be quite overwhelming for people new to electric cars. They all have different characteristics based on things like emissions, mileage on full charge, charging times, cost, etc.

The types of electric vehicles (EVs) can include fully electric ones like Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs) or partially electric ones like Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) and Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs). Due to their different working mechanisms, they all have different characteristics and factors to consider before buying them. There are also different trade offs you will need to make, such as mileage range and cost.

The factors you need to consider can also vary depending on your own personal preferences and circumstances. For example, you may need to ask yourself questions like:

  • Are you buying this car to mostly do short distance or long-distance journeys?
  • Do you have a particular budget in mind?
  • Would you prefer a lower upfront cost, or are long-term cost savings more important to you?
  • Do you live in an area were EV technology has been established, and where there are numerous charging stations?

The Different Types of Electric Cars

The term ‘electric car’ is rather a broad term as it can cover many different types of electric cars. The term can refer to full electric cars such as BEVs and FCEVs that rely solely on electricity to drive the vehicle, to hybrid vehicles that use both gasoline and electricity in conjunction. The one thing all electric cars have in common is that they use an electric motor to carry out all or even a part of the car’s key functions. The electric motor is driven by electric current drawn from a power source such as a battery pack (in BEVs) or fuel cells (FCEVs).

Most electric cars also employ regenerative braking to prevent the kinetic energy during a car’s deceleration from being converted to and wasted as heat. In regenerative braking, the car’s motor turns in the reverse direction during the braking. In the reverse direction, the induction motor now becomes a generator and converts the kinetic energy of the braking to electrical energy which can be stored in the battery pack for future use.

Electric cars can be classified into:

Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs)

These are fully electric vehicles that produce no emissions or waste products while driving. They rely solely on electrical energy stored in the battery packs for all the functions in the car. They do not have an internal combustion engine, just the electric motor to run everything.

Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs)

These are also fully electric vehicles and they draw the electric current to run the motor from a fuel cell. The fuel cell generates electrical current from the electrochemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. These don’t cause CO2 emissions, but they do produce steam or water vapor as it is a by-product of the chemical reaction.

Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs)

Hybrid Electric Vehicles use both electricity and petrol/diesel for key functions. So, they have both an electric motor as well as an internal combustion engine. They use the electric motor at low speeds where the motor can produce higher torque and the ICE at higher speeds as the engine is more efficient at higher speeds.

Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)

These are hybrid vehicles that can be charged with an external power source, unlike your typical HEV that cannot be recharged. Similar to typical hybrids, however, they can also alternate between electricity and gasoline.

Extended Range Electric Vehicles (E-REVs)

E-REVs are a type of PHEV that can cover a greater range on electricity alone.

A General Guide to Important Factors When Comparing Electric Cars

Range of the Electric Car

This is perhaps one of the most important performance indicators to keep in mind when comparing any cars, not just electric cars. In a traditional gasoline powered vehicle, the range refers to the maximum distance that the car can travel on a full gas tank. For electric cars, the maximum range refers to the maximum distance that can be covered by the car on single full charge of the battery. With FCEVs, the range would refer to the maximum distance that can be covered on a full tank of hydrogen fuel.

Charging Times and Range

Especially for BEVs and PHEVs, range is extremely important because it will determine how often you will have to recharge the battery. One of the biggest complaints about electric cars is that they are inconvenient to charge and take a long time to do so. If you don’t have the necessary equipment and charge the car on a standard electrical outlet at home, it can take the whole night to charge. This method of charging will give you 2-5 miles per hour of charging.

To get a faster charging time, you would need an EVSE (Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment) that operate on a 220/240 V circuit and can charge quicker than a standard outlet. An hour of charge will get you a mileage of about 10-25 miles.

The fastest charging method is to use a DC fast charger. These can give a full charge within an hour. Companies like Tesla have taken these even further, where their superchargers can get you a full charge in 30 minutes.

To put out a few numbers for perspective, here are some typical mileage values that can be achieved with an hour on an EVSE for some typical electric car models:

  • Chevy Spark- 11 miles added per hour
  • Fiat 500e- 22 miles added per hour
  • Ford Fusion Energi- 11 miles added per hour
  • BMW i3- 25 miles added per hour
  • Kia Soul- 22 miles added per hour
  • Mercedes B-class Electric- 29 miles added per hour

Speed of Charge and Maximum Range

So, here there are technically two things to consider when thinking about the range of an EV: how quickly it can be charged to full (how many miles are added per hour of charging) and the maximum range itself.

In EVs in general, it is hard to get a large range when running on electricity alone. Here are some typical maximum ranges (maximum distance per full single charge) for some popular EV models:

  • Nissan Leaf- 107 miles
  • Tesla Model S- 250 miles
  • Tesla Model X- 300 miles

Note that these electric car models are all BEVs, so they are fully electric.

Price of the Electric Car

As with any product, important decisions all boil down to the price tag and operating costs. With EVs, there are many costs to consider before making a purchase. You need to consider the upfront cost of the car, the charging or fuel costs and any potential replacement part costs.

For EVs, there are a lot of trade offs with price and cost. For example, a lot of high range EVs have high upfront costs. So, while they don’t need to be charged as often and you would save on refuelling costs, you still would need to pay up a lot of money. This upfront cost can take a while before they pay off over the years with reduced fuel costs.

High-end EVs with high ranges can cost over $80,000 for models like Tesla’s X model. More affordable options are also available, however, such as the Nissan Leaf and the Hyundai Ioniq series.

Other costs could include the cost of an EV charging station if you plan to get one. A good charger can cost you around $700.

Electricity Prices

The most important operating cost for an EV is the price of electricity. This could vary, depending on where you live. In general though, electricity is cheaper than gasoline fuel, so your ‘fuel’ costs can be significantly cut down with EVs.

Hydrogen Fuel Prices

If you’re one of the brave few who are planning to go for an FCEV, you would need to consider the costs of hydrogen fuel. As the technology behind FCEVs are relatively new and there’s not much demand for FCEVs compared to other EV types such as hybrids and BEVs, hydrogen fuel is not that economical.

Charging Stations

If you don’t have a charging station of your own, you should consider how many EV charging stations there are close to where you live. If there aren’t many, it could be inconvenient for you to buy full electric cars such as BEVs.

Fuel Economy

Another important factor to consider is fuel economy or what’s traditionally known as miles per gallon (mpg) for traditional vehicles. For electric cars, because full electric cars don’t use gasoline and electricity isn’t measured in gallons, there’s something known as eMPG or equivalent miles per gallon.  These values can be used not only to compare EVs with each other, but also EVs with traditional cars.

The eMPG is somewhat similar to the range we talked about before. eMPG is the distance covered by the EV for the electricity equivalent of a gallon of petrol or diesel.

Before deciding to purchase an EV or what kind of EV, you need to consider general factors like cost and range. However, you also need to think about your individual demands. What kind of trips do you make? If you only need to make short-range trips, then you wouldn’t need to invest in an expensive, high-range EV. So, it all depends on making trade-offs with cost and performance.

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Types of Electric Cars in the Market – EV Variation Explained

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There’s so much buzz around electric vehicles and their different variations that it’s hard to keep up. Usually when the media refers to ‘electric vehicles’, they are generally referring to Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) such as Teslas or Hybrid Electric Vehicles. In general, ‘Electric Vehicles’ is an umbrella term that refers to any vehicle that uses electricity to propel the vehicle.

However, there are types of electric vehicles that people don’t realise are electric vehicles, because they receive little media coverage. For example, hydrogen fuel cells vehicles or commonly referred to as Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV) are also electric vehicles.

What exactly counts as an Electric Vehicle (EV)?

In short electric vehicles use an electric motor that is powered by an electric current to propel the vehicle. Full electric vehicles only use the electric motor as a source of propulsion and has no internal combustion engine or associated parts such as gas tanks, pumps and pipes. Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs) are full electric vehicles.  BEVs use stored in electrical energy in their battery packs to drive the motor. Meanwhile, FCEVs utilize the electric current produced by the electrochemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen.

However, vehicles that aren’t fully electric such as hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are also classed under EVs.

The Types of Electric Vehicles (EVs)

EVs are starting to overtake regular gasoline powered vehicles. Electric vehicles are more efficient because the electric motor itself has a much higher efficiency (~80%) compared to internal combustion engines (a mere 30%). They are also cleaner than gasoline cars as they don’t produce CO2 emissions (if you discount the CO2 emissions during the industrial manufacture of the car parts themselves).

EVs are also generally smoother in operation and require lower maintenance work as they have less moving parts than traditional vehicles.

Besides BEVs getting an advantage from the higher efficiency of the motor itself, they also employ other methods to conserve energy. For example, most EVs employ regenerative braking to recover energy that would otherwise be lost as heat during braking. Here, the motor reverses direction during braking and acts like a generator. The generated electricity is stored for future use in the batteries.

What is holding EVs back?

The only thing holding EVs back from overtaking gasoline powered vehicles are their cost and low energy density. These seem to be changing though, as EV manufacturers are rigorously innovating better and cheaper ways to manufacture and operate EVs.

Electric Vehicles can be classified into five types:

  • Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs)
  • Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs)
  • Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs)
  • Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)
  • Extended Range Electric Vehicles (E-REVs)

The following list will explain these types of electric vehicle and a basic overview of how they function, what they are best suited for and their limitations.

Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs)

As its name suggests, Battery Electric Vehicles use batteries as their main source of power to drive the electric motor. They are also known as ‘pure electric’ vehicles or ‘All Electric Vehicles- AEVs’. As they rely solely on the batteries to power every task of the car, they tend to have pretty large and heavy battery packs and take a while to be fully charged.

The batteries on BEVs are rechargeable and so, need to be regularly charged. There are three primary ways of charging a BEV, both at home or at service stations:

  • Charging at home using a standard 120 V wall outlet. As the voltage is quite low, this will take a really long time to be fully charged. Typically, one hour of charging will get you about 2-5 miles.
  • Using an EVSE (Electric Vehicle Standard Equipment)- This operates on a 220/240 V circuit and can be done at home if you have an EVSE installed or at an electric vehicle service station. While this is faster than charging with a 120V outlet, it still takes an hour to cover a mileage of around 10-25 miles.
  • Using a DC Fast charger is the fastest method to charge an EV. They can charge up to 80% of the full charge in less than one hour.

BEVs can typically cover a range between 60 and 120 miles on a full charge. The range for a BEV is a crucial factor to consider because it will determine how long you can go before needing to be recharged. And, recharging a BEV is still less convenient and more expensive than for a gasoline vehicle.

Pricing for BEVs

However, the opportunity cost of buying a high range EV is its high price tag. There are also few affordable EV options out there such as the Hyundai Ioniq Electric that has a mileage of 124 miles and is widely regarded as the top electric car in recent years.

Their Best Use: As recharging can be quite inconvenient, BEVs are most suitable for shorter journeys such as running daily errands or commutes to work.

Here are a few examples of BEVs in the market:

  • Tesla X
  • Kia Soul
  • Volkswagen e-Golf
  • Hyundai Ioniq
  • Nissan LEAF
  • BMW i3

Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs)

Like BEVs, FCEVs also power the electric motor though an electric current. But the chemical reaction in a fuel cell result in the production of the electric current. They also don’t use an internal combustion engine like BEVs. Electricity powers the vehicle propulsion directly, so it also counts as a ‘full electric’ vehicle.

In the fuel cell, there is a positive terminal (cathode), a negative terminal (anode) and an electrolyte. Hydrogen is delivered to the cathode from the hydrogen storage tank through a series of pipes. At the cathode, the hydrogen atoms are stripped of their electrons and become positively charged protons.

As the protons are now attracted to the negatively charged anode, they will travel towards via the electrolyte. The electrolyte is made from a special material that only allows protons to pass through them. The electrons from the hydrogen atoms will also flow towards the anode, separately in an external circuit. This flow of electrons is known as the current and it is what drives the electric motor.

FCEVs were once hailed as the future of the automotive industry, even before BEVs took over. This is because of their superior performance and how easy and quick they are to recharge, compared to BEVs. On a full tank, FCEVs can cover a much higher range than a fully charged BEV.

However, FCEVs have limitations around the cost and convenience of refuelling that prevent them overtaking BEVs, let alone regular gasoline vehicles. The technology is still quite new and it is much easier to find a gas station than a hydrogen refuelling station.

Here are some examples of FCEV models:

  • Honda FCX Clarity
  • Toyota Mirai
  • Mercedes Benz F-Cell
  • Hyundai Nexo

Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs)

HEVs are the second most popular type of electric vehicles. The introduction of the Toyota Prius in the late 90’s helped with their popularity.

HEVs use both electricity and petrol/diesel as their fuel source. They also have an internal combustion engine as well as an electric motor. At low engine speeds, they use the electric motor as they provide higher torques at lower speeds. As the speed increases, it employs the internal combustion engines that provide higher torques at higher speeds.

The motors are controlled by an electronic system that makes the decision on if it’s better to use the engine or the electric motor, depending on driving conditions.

Like BEVs, they also employ regenerative braking. Some models of HEVs include:

  • Honda Civic Hybrid
  • Toyota Prius Hybrid
  • 2010 Tesla Roadster
  • 2010 Chevrolet Equinox

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)

Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles use an external source to charge the electric motor like a BEV, and hence its name. As a result, they are able to achieve a zero-emission range meaning that emits less than 75g of CO2 per km. They are also able to make significant savings on energy costs, compared to other hybrids.

As they aren’t fully electric and don’t need large batteries, they are smaller than BEVs.

However, they can only rely on electric power for short distances before having to turn to gas power. So, if you don’t want to use gas on a PHEV, they are terrific for short journeys at low speeds.

Some examples of PHEVs include:

  • Volkswagen Golf LTE
  • Toyota Prius Plug-In
  • Ford Fusion Energi
  • Audi A3 E-Tron

Extended Range Electric Vehicles (E-REVs)

E-Revs are similar to HEVs and PHEVs. They are not fully electric and use both electricity and petrol/diesel. They have both an electric motor and a combustion engine. However, the design is to primarily run on electricity while using the combustion engine as a back-up.

The engine only employs when absolutely necessary, such as when the battery runs out of power.

They produce low CO2 emissions due to their reliance on electric power, about 20 g/km which is lower than that of HEVs. They can also cover large ranges solely using electric power, and hence the name, Extended Range Electric Vehicles. Some can go up to around 125 miles using only electricity.

Some examples of E-REVs are:

  • BMW i3 and i8
  • Chevrolet Volt

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Do Electric Cars Really Save Money? HybridCenter Explores!

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Electric cars have been all over the news lately. They have been heralded as the future of the automotive industry. With companies like Tesla helping to publicize their technology and pushing technical boundaries. It’s not a surprise that electric cars are getting so much attention.

Societies and governments are starting to realize how detrimental vehicle pollution is from regular diesel and petrol cars. They are not just bad for the environment, but also bad for people’s health. As our population grows rapidly, and more people are looking for transport. The automotive industry has to find a quick solution to tackle these issues.

Electric cars first gained attention in the late 1990s with the introduction of hybrid vehicles such as the Toyota Prius. The Prius was the pioneer for all electric vehicles, and sole-handedly created the market for hybrids in the US.

Supporters of electric vehicles have touted a myriad of benefits for electric vehicles. They are cleaner, have potential to be more efficient than gasoline vehicles and require less maintenance than regular cars. But, the main reason electric vehicles have gained so much popularity over recent years is the claim that they can lower fuel costs and save you money.

So, do electric cars really save you money? That’s quite a difficult question to answer. There are many different types of electric vehicles with different technologies. Which means they will have their own specific costs that are incurred in their manufacture and operation. For example, with plug-in hybrids and full-electric vehicles such as Battery Electric Vehicles, you need to consider the cost of electricity for charging the battery. But, for conventional hybrids, you don’t need to think about electricity costs. Because their batteries don’t need to be charged via an external source, like in the case of BEVs and plug-in hybrids.

So, whether electric cars can save you money will depend on the type of electric car you’re considering.

Costs to Consider For Electric Cars

Apart from the cost of the vehicle itself, there are other costs and benefits you need to consider when purchasing an electric car:

Upfront Cost

First up is the actual cost of the car. Electric cars tend to have quite high upfront costs because some of the technology is still relatively new, such as battery packs.

‘Fuel Costs

Depending on the type of electric vehicle you are going for, you need to consider the cost of recharging or refuelling. For ones that need charging, like Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) and Plug-In Hybrids, you need to consider the cost of electricity. If you’re considering buying a Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV), then you need to consider the cost of hydrogen fuel.

Taxes or Subsidies

Depending on where you live, certain countries have lower taxes and purchase subsidies for electric vehicles to encourage people to buy them.

Additional Supporting Costs

Certain types of electric vehicles will need specialized equipment to keep them operating. For example, BEVs and plug-in hybrids are quickly chargable using EVSEs (Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment) which you can purchase for your home, so that you don’t need to go to a service station to charge your car.

Replacement Part Costs

You also need to consider how much replacing a certain part of the car will cost you. In almost all electric vehicles, one of the most important replacement costs you need to consider is that of the battery. Especially if you are considering a BEV that is entirely dependent on a battery pack for power, you need to research how expensive that would be to replace.

Also, not all types of EVs use the same kind of batteries. There are different types of batteries used in EVs such as Nickel-Metal Hydride, Lithium-Ion and Lead Acid Batteries that all have different costs. For example, BEVs mainly use Lithium-Ion because they offer the best power-to-weight ratio but are also the most expensive to replace. So, the battery replacement costs for a BEV can be costly since they solely rely on them for power.

Cost of your Efforts and Time

Though not an explicit cost, it is an important thing to consider if you’re busy. Some EVs like BEVs and Plug-In Hybrids need to be charged regularly and charging EVs isn’t the most convenient. It can take several hours for the car to reach full charge

Measures to Compare Vehicles

One method to effectively compare the fuel costs between vehicles is to look at their fuel economy. Fuel economy is simply the maximum distance that can be travelled per gallon of fuel, known as miles per gallon (mpg). This can be used for FCEVs (miles per gallon of hydrogen fuel) and regular petrol and diesel cars.

Because you can’t measure electricity in gallons, there is a measurement – equivalent miles per gallon. This measures the amount of electricity that has the same energy as a gallon of gasoline and how many miles can be covered for this amount of ‘equivalent’ electricity.

The higher the fuel economy, the less often you will have to charge the vehicle and the more you will save on fuel costs. If the fuel economy is low, this could mean that the car doesn’t use the fuel effectively and a lot of the energy is wasted. So, you will end up with high fuel costs.

Costs of Owning an Electric Vehicle

In general, there are several ways that electric vehicles save money:

Higher Efficiency and Fuel Economy

Electric motors are inherently more efficient than internal combustion engines, so they waste less fuel as heat. EVs also employ regenerative braking which recovers energy that would otherwise be lost during braking. As a result, they have higher fuel economies which means you save on fuel costs.

Lower Cost of Electricity

The recharging cost of BEVs and plug-in hybrids will be lower than if you use that same energy in the form of gasoline. Electricity prices are more stable in comparison to the price of gasoline that fluctuates in the range $1.50-$4.0 for each gallon. To travel the same distance as a gallon of gasoline, the cost of electricity would only be around $1.20.

Tax Reliefs

Some countries such as in Scandinavia will encourage people to buy more electric vehicles by offering tax cuts and vehicle purchase subsidies.

Less Maintenance and Repair Costs

The transmission system for an EV is much simpler than that of a regular car because there is more electronic control over it. To change an EV’s speed, all it has to do is to change the current that is feeding into the motor.

This means that EVs have less moving parts and hence lower chances of breakdowns and repairs, since moving parts are the main cause for vehicle failures. This will save you maintenance and repair costs.

On average, the annual average cost of operating an EV is approximately $485. While that of a gasoline car is around $1,117. So, you definitely save up on annual operating and fuel costs.

Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs)

These are electric vehicles that solely rely on electric power and a battery pack. They don’t have an internal combustion engine, only have electric motors and don’t use gasoline. The battery pack is the most important component in terms of cost.

BEVs are reliant solely on the battery pack, so the ones they have need to be light and powerful. This is why a lot of them use Lithium-Ion batteries, because they offer the best power to weight ratio. However, they are also the costliest battery type. The cost of replacing the battery depends on the car model and manufacturer. The battery on a Nissan Leaf, for example, costs $5,499 to replace without the installation charge.

The upfront cost of a BEV is also quite high since they use expensive Lithium-ion batteries. High range, high-end cars like the Tesla Model X costs around $85,000 and $35,000 for the Model 3. They can cover a range of just under 240 miles on a full charge. A Chevy Bolt is around $38,000. So, they’re not really the cheapest.

However, with BEVs, there is a trade-off between the upfront cost and the savings in fuel costs. They can effectively half your ‘fuel’ costs. Primarily due to the low cost of electricity. It will take years to pay off this upfront cost, so it depends on how long you own it.

For charging, you can charge a BEV at home on a standard 120V outlet at home. But, this will take hours. An EVSE is a faster method of charging because it uses a 220V circuit. They are available at service stations but it can be convenient to own one. This is an additional cost that can set you back around $700 for a good charger.

Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs)

If you’re going for a FCEV, the main ‘fuel’ cost will be that of hydrogen fuel. Currently, hydrogen fuel costs are almost the same as that of gasoline at around $0.13 per mile. The upfront costs are very high, however. The Toyota Mirai costs around $57,500 compared to the cost of a Prius, $23,475.

Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)

PHEVs can rely more on electric power because they can charge externally like a BEV. So, like a BEV, the costs here include that of electricity for charging, cost of an EVSE charger and a battery replacement. Different manufacturers use different types of batteries, so the cost can vary.

With PHEVs, you also need to factor in the cost of gasoline in addition to electricity. A plug-in hybrid can cost you upwards of $25,000 upfront.

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Electric Cars Unraveled – An All-Inclusive Guide to Electric Cars

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Contrary to popular belief, electric cars aren’t actually new. The technology has been here from as far back as 1884. Due to limitations in technology, electric cars are largely a lost subject, in favour of petrol and diesel fuelled vehicles. Now that the world has realized the role of petrol and diesel vehicles in pressing issues such as climate change, the focus has returned to electric car technologies.  Electric cars in general have a better fuel economy and produces less emissions compared to traditional gasoline-powered vehicles.

Electric cars are all the rage these days. It would be hard to avoid news about the electric revolution in the automotive world, with companies such as Tesla spear heading continuous innovations in the field. Electric cars have seen a massive increase in their sales, with renowned automotive companies such as Jaguar and BMW joining in on the trend.

In this article, we are going to explain the A-Z of electric cars, what they are and how they work.

What is an Electric Car?

With so many innovations to keep up with in the automotive world, it is easy to lose track of what an electric car really is.  Simply put, an electric car or electric vehicle (EV) uses an electric motor that takes its power from transportable sources of electric current such as fuel cells and batteries.

It can be easy to confuse full electric vehicles with hybrid vehicles. A full electric vehicle uses the electric motor as the only source of power. Meanwhile, a hybrid vehicle uses the electric motor in conjunction with the traditional internal combustion engine as power.

You may have heard of ‘BEVs’ a lot in automotive news. It stands for battery electric vehicles where the source of electric current is a battery.  Generally, when referring to ‘electric vehicles’, many people refer to both BEVs and fuel cell vehicles.

How Electric Cars Differ From Traditional Gasoline-Powered Vehicles

The main distinction between EVs and regular vehicles is that an electric motor replaces the internal combustion engine that is found in traditional vehicles.  In electric vehicles, there are also no gears or clutches. They just use electric current to change the speed of the motor.

Because there are no liquid fuel sources for a full electric vehicle, you also find the other fuel associated parts found in gasoline vehicles such as intake manifolds, gas tank, carburettors, gas pumps and exhaust pipes.

Electric cars also have less moving parts, so in some ways, it reduces maintenance work. The only moving part in them is the rotor.

Electric cars generally use electronic controls over mechanical methods of controlling actions, unlike in conventional vehicles. Starting, stopping and changes in speed are all controlled electronically.

Even though electric cars on their own produce less emissions than traditional vehicles, they also have more methods of saving energy, such as regenerative braking. The purpose of regenerative braking is to recover energy from the momentum during a car’s deceleration, which would otherwise be lost as heat. This feature is not available in conventional gasoline-powered cars. Additionally, in most electric cars, the power is turned off when the car is in ‘idle’ such as during traffic.

Because they have many methods to conserve energy, they tend to have a better fuel economy than traditional vehicles.  

Basics of How Electric Cars Work

In one sentence, it can be said that, direct current drawn from a battery or fuel cell is used to run the motor and propel the vehicle.

Electric cars work by converting direct current drawn from a fuel cell or battery to alternating current using an inverter, and then using this AC current to turn an induction motor. The induction motor is turned by the alternating current producing an alternating magnetic field. The turning of the motor is then used to propel the vehicle.

The source of the direct current is a battery pack. A battery pack is made from a series of around 7,000 lithium ion cells that work together to generate direct current.

The drivetrain found in electric vehicles is not as complicated as in traditional vehicles. Electric vehicles use a single speed transmission that delivers the power from the motor to the wheels.

To change the speed of the vehicle, a signal is sent from the accelerator pedal to the controller. This will change the speed of the vehicle by changing the frequency of the AC electric power from the inverter to the motor.

Battery Electric Vehicles use rechargeable batteries that need to be charged regularly, much like fuelling up at a gas station. The battery can be charged by simply plugging into an electric outlet, at home or at an electric vehicle charging station.

Charging an EV

There are many ways of charging the battery of an EV. When charging at home, a 120 V outlet is needed. One hour of charging is enough to give about 2-5 miles of mileage. This is the slowest method of charging.

The second method is to use an EVSE (Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment) which could be done at home or a charging station. The EVSE operates on a 220/240 V circuit and can be used on all plug-in vehicles. This is faster than using a standard 120 V outlet, and an hour of charge can cover 10-25 miles of distance.

Finally, the fastest method of charging an EV is to charge at DC fast charging station where they use DC-based EVSE. This method can be used for all plug-in electrical vehicles. Here, 80% of the charge will be completed in 30 minutes.

Regenerative Braking

As mentioned before, electric vehicles attempt to conserve energy by recovering energy that would otherwise be lost during braking. The loss in energy is mostly due to friction between the wheels and road surface. The loss in kinetic energy during braking is converted into electrical energy via the induction motor. How does this happen? Well, in electric and hybrid vehicles, the motor turns in the reverse direction when the driver brakes. When the motor operates in the normal, forward direction it converts electrical energy to rotational kinetic energy. When the motor operates in the reverse direction, it does the opposite. It converts the kinetic energy from braking into electrical energy, acting like a generator. This generated electricity is stored for future use in the battery pack.

The Anatomy of a Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV)

Electric car technology is evolving at a fast rate, so the exact anatomy or technology would depend on the specific car. They all have different features such as self-driving technology, but here we are describing the basic anatomy of most electric vehicles.

Contrary to what people may think, the anatomy and operation of an electric vehicle is usually simpler than that of a traditional vehicle. There are not as many moving parts, so the structure of an electric vehicle is simpler.

The key components of electric vehicles are:

1. Electric Motor

Every electric vehicle uses an induction motor. AC current generates changing magnetic fields in an induction motor, which will make their poles turn and turn the motor. Technically, these can run on either DC or AC, but AC motors tend to be lighter and simpler and hence are more common in electric vehicles in the market.

2. Motor Controller

A motor controller is to an electric motor what the brain is to the heart. It tells the motor what to do. It is also the intermediary between the battery and the motor. Any speed change has to go through the controller as a signal, to the electric motor. The controller helps monitor the performance of the key components of the car, such as the accelerator pedal, the battery and the motor. Hence, it effectively controls all the key tasks of the car. Motor controllers can operate on either AC or DC current.

3. Batteries

This is the most important power source of an electric vehicle. There are many types of electric vehicle batteries available, such as:

  • Lead Acid Batteries

This is the cheapest of all the battery types and hence are quite popular in the electric car industry. They are also 97% recyclable.

  • Lithium-Ion Batteries

Performance wise, these are the best batteries and also the most lightweight. They are widely used in the electronics industry for things like laptops and smartphones. They are durable and give a higher range and have longer lifespans than lead acid batteries. However, they are also the most expensive of all the battery types. Also, there are some concerns about their toxicity.

  • Nickel Metal Hydride Batteries

These have a higher energy density than lead acid batteries but are less efficient in the charging and discharging process. They are appearing to be the biggest contender to lithium ion batteries because they are less toxic and more economical.

Batteries can be charged via several methods. They are chargeable both at home or at specialized charging stations. Batteries also charge via regenerative braking available in electric cars, but it’s usually not enough to completely charge it.

The battery pack consists of many individual battery cells that work together to generate current and store electrical energy. The battery pack is one of the heaviest components of an EV and is normally quite low down in the vehicle, so as to maintain the car’s centre of gravity as close as possible to the ground.

4. Inverters

The current drawn from the batteries is in DC, while most of the motors found on EVS operate on AC current. So, there has to a way of converting the DC current to AC current which is what the inverter does.

Advantages of Using Electric Vehicles

Greater Efficiency

Electric cars are far more efficient than regular vehicles because electric motors are generally more efficient than internal combustion engines. Electric motors are around 80-90% efficient while internal combustion engines are only around 30% efficient.  In internal combustion engines, most of the fuel’s energy results in the production of heat, which is waste.

Due to this vast improvement in efficiency, electric vehicles have a better fuel economy than traditional vehicles, which of course means major savings in fuel costs per year. For example, the fuel cost of running 30,000 miles for a Tesla Model S comes to about $1,048 annually, while at the same time the average annual fuel cost for a traditional car is about $5,318.

Equal or Greater Performance

EVs can sometimes outperform even the best traditional vehicles. This is because electric motors can generate high torques at lower engine speeds, which is not possible on internal combustion engines.

EVs are also smoother and quieter when running.

Less Air Pollution

As mentioned, electric motors are more efficient than internal combustion engines. Hence, they inherently have a better fuel economy as they waste less . They also don’t produce any emissions at all. They have additional energy saving mechanisms such regenerative braking. So, they waste less energy and pollute the air less.

Maintenance

EVs have less moving parts compared to traditional vehicles. This means less parts are likely to fail and hence require less maintenance work.

Electric Vehicles are an innovative automotive technology helping to tackle our pressing issue of climate change. They are more efficient and cause less air pollution. However, the technology is relatively new and limitations of them are preventing them from taking over gasoline powered cars. For example, the battery packs are quite expensive and heavy which might cancel any benefits from fuel savings. It’s also easier to find a gas station compared to an EV charging station. So gasoline cars are still more convenient.

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