There is an ever-increasing hype around electric vehicles (EVs), with major car manufacturers competing to innovate in the field. Electric cars have come a long way since they popularized in the late 90s by cars like the Toyota Prius.
With the pressing issue of vehicle emissions and the irreversible damage they do the environment and people’s health. Electrifications is a major area of interest in the automotive industry.
Technically, when we say electric vehicles (EVs), they are typically talking about Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs). For instance, the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S. But, there are many types of vehicles with differing technologies that fall under the ‘Electric Vehicle’ category. For example, Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs) and Hybrid Electric Vehicles are also Electric Vehicles.
The General Advantages of Electric Vehicles (EVs)
It is hard to point out the benefits of owning an electric car without talking about the type. Because the different types of electric cars all have various different benefits and applications. In general, EVs tend to give out lower CO2 emissions. They have better fuel economy and some of them even have better performance than their gasoline powered counterparts.
All electric vehicles use an electric motor to propel the vehicle. Full electric models rely only on electricity to do this. While other types like hybrids will use the electric motor for some tasks only. Full electric models only have an electric motor to drive the vehicle. A hybrid, on the other hand, uses both an electric motor and an internal combustion engine like a traditional car.
Better Fuel Economy
The electric motor gets its power via an electric current from a source such as a battery (in BEVs) or a fuel cell (in FCEVs). Electrical energy storage happens either in the battery packs or derived from the electrochemical reaction in a fuel cell. Considering that electric motors tend to be far more efficient than internal combustion engines (80% in comparison to a mere 30%). EVs have an energy saving advantage right off the bat.
EVs employ even more energy saving mechanisms. Almost all electric vehicles, including hybrids, use regenerative braking. When a car brakes, all that momentum and kinetic energy converts to heat and goes to waste. Regenerative braking aims to limit this by recovering this kinetic energy and converting it into electrical energy that can be stored for future use.
The Regenerative braking systems use the car’s braking to turn the motor in the reverse direction. The induction motor turning in the reverse direction acts like a generator and hence, generates electricity. This is sent to the batteries for storage.
All this means that there is less energy wasted and therefore, less fuel that is wasted. With less fuel being wasted, you could make significant savings in fuel costs per year. Of course, with full electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids you can save more fuel than hybrids because you have little to no reliance on the gasoline.
Of course, it’s not possible to compare fuel savings with electric cars because they use stored electrical energy and not gallons of fuel. But, you can find out how much savings you can make where you live, by looking at ‘eGallons’. eGallons are calculated based on the electricity prices of a particular state or area and seeing how many units of electricity it takes for the car to achieve the same mileage as a regular car using a gallon of petrol or diesel.
Using eGallons, it is found that the ‘fuel costs’ of an electric car is almost half of a regular gasoline car.
Less Emissions and Pollution
Full electric vehicles such as BEVs don’t have an issue with pollution at all because they do not release waste gases or emissions. The only ‘emissions’ involved are those produced during the manufacture of the car itself. In regular cars, not only are they inefficient with poor fuel economy, they also release toxic greenhouse gases such as carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide into the air.
Hybrids aren’t totally emission-free because they also use internal combustion engines. However, it is still significantly less than that of regular cars. Even if they use a small amount of electricity for certain tasks, that is still lower than regular vehicles that use fuel for all the tasks in a car.
Of hybrids, plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) tend to have the lowest emissions released per km. They are able to achieve the zero-emission range which means they emit less than 75 kg/km of CO2.
Other types of EVs such as Extended Range Electric Vehicles (E-REVs) are able to achieve even lower carbon emissions. E-REVs are designed to prioritize using electrical energy as much as possible and only using the gasoline powered internal combustion engine when absolutely needed. They can achieve a carbon emissions target of about 20 kg/km of CO2.
Smoother Operation and Less Maintenance
Most of the car’s function in an EV is controlled electronically, whereas in a regular car most of those functions need mechanical parts. For example, the drivetrain on an EV is far simpler than a regular car because the motor speed can be limited by the electric current, which can be done electronically.
More electronic control means there is usually less room for error and less chance of failures. Moving parts are the main causes of failures and repairs in regular cars.
With less moving parts, it also means that the operation and driving of the vehicle is smoother and quieter.
Limitations of EVs
Electric Cars are brilliant in how they conserve energy and reduce emissions. However, there are still limitations of EVs that are preventing them from completely overtaking regular cars.
One of the biggest limitations is the need for rechargeable batteries. Batteries are quite heavy and need a lot of space. With battery technology, there is a trade off between cost and performance of the battery. For example, while lithium-ion batteries are very effective, they are also the most expensive.
Secondly, a popular complaint about EVs are that they take ages to charge. You can refuel a gas tank at a gas station in the matter of minutes. And that same amount of energy would take hours to be charged into an EV battery.
Fortunately, EV manufacturers are innovating rigorously to solve these problems. EV technology is developing at a very rapid pace.
Why you should buy an electric car in 2019
As electric cars are evolving rapidly. There are continuous range of products that solve the problems that have long plagued EVs. For example, there is major innovation going on regarding quick charging of electric vehicles. Which is one of their biggest drawbacks. Tesla superchargers can now fully charge a car in about 30 minutes. What traditionally took a few hours for a regular EV.
Battery technology is also evolving to save costs, weight and space. There is also further research in making better drivetrains for electric cars. All these will improve performance and drive down costs in the near future.
There are constantly new EVs introduced into the market, that are quite affordable and have great mileage. One such example is Hyundai’s Ioniq Electric series that is widely regarded as the best EV in the past year.