EV Technology: How Do All-Electric Cars Work?

EV Technology: How Do All-Electric Cars Work?
EV Technology: How Do All-Electric Cars Work? Photo: Supplied

Electric cars have undoubtedly become a trending topic and there’s no denying that people’s interest in them is growing. On the other hand, there are still doubts amongst consumers and the need for enhancing the understanding behind the technology that will be powering the future is required.

Electric vehicles are truly life-changing products, but they’re also a big investment, so it’s normal that people want to know what they’re getting into. In order to be confident in your decision of purchasing an electric car, we have plunged deep into the tech details which may seem a bit baffling at first glance. Bear with us and all shall be revealed.

The Variety

The story of electric cars is simple in its essence – instead of a petrol tank there’s a battery, and an electric motor has replaced an internal combustion engine. What powers the electric motor is the electricity stored in its battery. The car’s battery needs to be charged when too low, much the same way our phones need charging.

As you can see, the basic setup is pretty simple, so what creates some confusion is the fact that there is a wide range of vehicles under the term ʽelectric vehicle (EV) ʼ. It was a long road to the adoption and proliferation of all-electric vehicles, and we’re going to take a look at exactly how the technology of today came to be.

● Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV)

This type of electric vehicle combines an electric motor and battery with a combustion engine. This is the most common EV and it has been commercially available since the first model Toyota Prius was released, meaning it’s been around for over 20 years now. It is also most similar to a conventional diesel or petrol-powered car since both the electric motor and internal combustion engine can provide power. When the internal combustion engine powers the vehicle it predominately uses petrol. The onboard battery powering the electric motor is charged by regenerative braking and there’s usually zero-tailpipe emissions in slower, urban driving.

● Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)

This type of EV can travel short-range on battery power alone since its battery can be externally recharged by plugging in. For longer travels when the battery runs out, the combustion engine will kick in. The main difference compared to the above-mentioned type is that option for an external recharge which enables it to last longer on a pure electric range. That’s why PHEVs generally have larger batteries and smaller internal combustion engines.

● Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV)

What is an increasingly growing category in today’s marketplace, this type of EV can also be recharged and it runs entirely on battery power. Many manufacturers today are investing in precisely this kind of vehicle, with battery technology allowing much greater range than ever before. Available since 2010, this type is famous for models such as the Tesla S, Renault Zoe, and Nissan Leaf, however many more models are being offered by manufacturers that are slowly electrifying their entire fleets.

● Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV)

The electric motor of this type is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. The process within that fuel cell is the one where the oxygen drawn from the air is combined with hydrogen gas, which created water. This process is what creates the energy to power the motor. The biggest advantage of FCEV is that it can achieve a similar range as conventional vehicles because it can be fueled in a similar method (although hydrogen fuelling stations are anything but common). Nevertheless, this technology is still under development and only a limited number of models are commercially available, mainly due to safety concerns regarding hydrogen storage, delivery and production.
You can see that this process of evolution was mainly about the mileage electric cars can cover, which remains the biggest concern. However, that is a factor that is becoming a thing of the past. According to Carzoos, the optimal range of every EV is between 200km to 485km which is far more than the average daily drive time for any city dweller.

Beyond Green Credentials

Probably the number one reason why people love all-electric cars is the fact that they don’t produce tailpipe emissions. But their green credentials are not the only advantage. If you have an installed home charging unit you can charge them at home which saves you the trip to the nearest charging point or petrol station. The advanced technology saves energy and reduces running costs. One of the best examples is the regenerative braking mentioned above, which basically charges the battery when you brake. Manufacturers are still making improvements, constantly refining and re-engineering the batteries for a greater driving range, and at the same time reducing their cost, weight, and size.

Taking Control

What the technology behind all-electric is really about is taking control. You can decide on a battery percentage, meaning the car will know exactly how long it needs to charge before the drive. You can also set the start and stop time of the charging. Options to pre-condition the temperature, as well as heated steering wheels and seats, allowing for maximum comfort. But the driving experience is probably the most important aspect since technology makes these vehicles completely intuitive. When you combine this with an electric motor which makes them lighter and quicker, they’re certainly the most enjoyable ride out there.

The story of electric cars is not a new one – technological development in the field has been happening for over a century, but it needed time to evolve the necessary battery technology to allow the vehicles to be driven for extended periods. With continued environmental concerns and the dwindling resource of fossil fuels, along with the obvious advantages in terms of long-term cost, energy, and control, the future of the automotive world seems decidedly electric.