How do electric cars work

How Do Electric Cars Work?

Electric Vehicles (EVs) use electric motors instead of internal combustion engines. They plug into charging points, taking power from the electricity grid, instead of traditional fuels. Their rechargeable batteries store electricity, powering the motor and turning the wheels. They do not emit tailpipe exhaust so are an eco-friendly alternative.

The types of Electric Vehicles are BEV, PHEV, and HEV

The different types of EV are powered differently. To read more about how fossil fuels and electric compare, click here to read about electric vs hybrid vs petrol.

  • BEV - Battery Electric Vehicle

A BEV is powered ONLY by battery; there’s no other way to obtain power. It's a 100% electric car. Examples of BEVs are the Tesla Model 3, Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe.

  • PHEV - Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle

You need to ‘plug-in’ to charge this car’s battery, but it has both a battery and a standard petrol or diesel engine. A PHEV typically has a short battery-only range of about 30 miles, then the petrol/diesel takes over (so it can be a 100% electric option for short trips, but then requires fossil fuels). Examples of PHEVs include PHEV Mitsubishi Outlanders, the Golf GTE and the PHEV Volvo XC60.

  • HEV - Hybrid Electric Vehicle

A HEV isn’t plugged in to charge. Like a PHEV it has both diesel/petrol engine and battery. Still, you charge the battery partly through ‘regenerative braking’. An electric motor goes into reverse, acting as a generator, when you press the brake pedal, charging the battery and partly by burning petrol/diesel inside their Internal combustion engines (so it’s not that Green an option). The battery in a HEV is predominantly to help the car go further, or boost performance (electric cars accelerate quicker, for example). They can run on battery alone at low speeds, but as soon as the vehicle needs to accelerate, the fossil fuel engine kicks in.

Examples of HEVs include the Toyota Yaris hybrid, the Lexus RX450H and the hybrid Ford Mondeo.

Components of an electric car

The key components of an EV vary to a traditional petrol/diesel vehicle. Here are the key ones you should know:

  • Traction Battery Pack

Stores electricity to be used by the motor (to power the wheels).

  • Electric Traction Motor

Powered by the Traction Battery Pack, the motor drives the wheels (though some vehicles use motor-generators for this).

  • Auxiliary Battery

This provides power to all of the car’s accessories.

  • Charge Port

This lets you connect your car to a charge spot to charge the traction battery pack. Read more about charging your electric vehicle here.

  • Onboard Charger

This directs the incoming AC power from the Charge Port and converts it to DC power, used to charge the Traction Battery Pack. It also monitors current, voltage, state of charging and temperature as you charge.

  • Power Electronics Controller

This controls the flow of electricity from the Traction Battery, managing the speed of the motor and controlling its torque.

  • DC/DC Converter

The auxiliary battery and accessories need a lower voltage, so the DC/DC converter converts the higher voltage Traction Battery Pack power into lower voltage DC power.

  • Electric Transmission

This transfers mechanical power from the car’s traction motor to drive the wheels.

  • Thermal Cooling System

This maintains the best operating temperature range for your car’s motor and other components.

How does an electric engine work?

Unlike an Internal Combustion Engine, EVs get their power from electricity, which powers the motor. The motor turns the wheels. If two motors are used, one on each axle, then EVs can also be four-wheel drive (like the Jaguar I-Pace).

Do electric cars have gears?

EVs don’t need gears. They don’t have a clutch either! EVs achieve 100% torque, even at low speeds. Keep your RPM under 2000 to generate the most torque, as the higher the revs per minute, the less torque the car generates.

How does electric charging work?

Electric charging options depend on your EV (BEV, HEV, PHEV), but most BEVs and PHEVs must be plugged in to recharge. You can recharge (very slowly) from a three-pin domestic socket, but there are government subsidies for installing home and business charge points, and you can access chargers at motorway service stations and in many streets in towns and cities. Wireless charging may be the future of EV battery regeneration. Click here to read more about How to Charge an Electric Car.

How do hybrids work?

As mentioned at the top, HEVs are a type of electric vehicle. They combine traditional combustion engines, using petrol or diesel, with battery power. The battery is usually charged via a combination of regenerative braking and fossil fuels.

What about plug-in hybrids?

Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) move a little further from fossil fuel consumption, usually allowing the car to travel a certain distance on (electric) battery power alone, but have a back-up fuel supply for when you undertake longer mileage.

If the world of BEVs, PHEVs and HEVs is for you, and you’re looking to choose an EV as your next car, get in touch with us to discuss Electric and Hybrid Leasing.

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