Sustainability made simple

How Do Electric Cars Work? The Inner Workings Explained

How do electric cars work?
Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / geralt

How do electric cars work and what are the major pros and cons? Find out by reading a little bit more about electric cars, how they operate, and why you should care.

Understanding how electric cars work involves a basic understanding of electricity. It is gaining momentum as a more sustainable power source for vehicles when compared to the traditional internal combustion engine. Manufacturers have been forced to look for alternatives as legislation and public awareness insist on increasingly stricter emission targets. 

According to research, a mere 7% of U.S. adults say they currently own an electric or hybrid vehicle. Those who know more about them are more likely to consider buying one. So, let’s get more familiar with how electric cars work and why you might consider buying one.

How Do Electric Cars Work?

The car battery stores energy.
The car battery stores energy. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / LeeRosario)

Unlike traditional vehicles that are fuelled solely by a gasoline engine, electric cars are powered by a battery or fuel cell instead. Some vehicles, known as hybrids, or plug-in hybrids, can switch between the two energy sources. A true electric car operates exclusively on electricity and we will explain how a true electric car works in this piece.

Electric motors are found in a huge array of appliances and items, including small items like toothbrushes to larger appliances such as dishwashers. They are quiet, reliable and durable. Electric car motors use AC power and the vehicles are fitted with an inverter — which converts DC power in the battery to the AC power needed by the motor. 

Electric cars work because they are fitted with a battery that stores DC electrical energy that is ready to use. They must be plugged in because the battery charger converts the AC power available on the electricity network to DC power stored in a battery. Once the battery has enough stored energy, the car is ready to drive.

What Happens When The Battery Dies?

Make, model and battery size all influence charging time.
Make, model and battery size all influence charging time. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / HookyungLee)

One of the major disadvantages of electric cars is that the battery needs to be charged, much like a cellphone or laptop. A charging cable for standard charging is supplied and should be kept in the car. It’s used for charging at home through a standard socket, or during your journey at a dedicated charge point. There are now more than fifty-five thousand charge points across the U.S. and Canada — all of which are mapped by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Refilling gasoline can be done in minutes, but charging time for electric cars varies according to make, model, and the size of the car and battery. Where you charge will also impact charging time. A fast charge point will have its own cable and won’t require the one that comes with the car.

Once the charging cable is connected, the battery replenishes and energy stores increase. Fully charging an electric car can take anywhere from one to twelve hours. It is usually not be necessary to plug your car in after every use but it is a good idea to fully charge before any long journeys.

Battery technology has improved hugely in recent years and most newer electric car batteries are lithium based — which are energy efficient, can be recycled and don’t lose charge if the car isn’t driven for a few days. These are just some of the many advantages electric cars have.

Electric Car Advantages

How electric cars work reduces motor emissions and air pollution.
How electric cars work reduces motor emissions and air pollution. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / geralt)

Perhaps the most significant advantage electric cars have is that there is no need for an exhaust as they do not produce tailpipe emissions. Generating the electricity used to charge electric cars may create carbon pollution but they still appear to have a clear advantage over conventional vehicles when it comes to transportation emissions. Research finds that even factoring in indirect emissions from manufacture of the car and fuels used to power electricity, do not remotely equate to the much more noxious fossil fuelled emissions from combustible engines. 

There is an on-going global effort to establish ways of reversing climate change and to find renewable, sustainable energy resources to power electricity. A nationwide transition to electric vehicles powered by renewable energy has the potential to save thousands of American lives and trillions of dollars in public health costs over the next three decades according to reports. Some electric and hybrid vehicles qualify for a federal tax credit and many states offer incentives for purchasing electrical cars because of their proven eco-friendliness.

All electric cars and trucks sold in the U.S. must meet the same standards as conventional vehicles and are equally as safe. The selection of models, sizes and options continues to grow and many consider the silent driving experience to be a much more peaceful affair. Electric cars have an automatic transmission for ease for driving — although some do miss the experience of driving a manual. They are also considered lower maintenance, lower cost, and better performance options than conventional cars.

Electric Car Disadvantages

Electric cars do have some disadvantages.
Electric cars do have some disadvantages. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Mikes-Photography)

Despite the plentiful advantages of electric cars, many people are still reluctant to invest in one. Some of the reasons for this are due to untrue myths about how they work. Many manufacturers and government bodies work hard to correct these misconceptions. Some of the genuine disadvantages of electric cars include:

  • Charging time
  • Increased consumption of electricity 
  • Lack of charging stations in local areas
  • Can be expensive to purchase
  • Less variety
  • Battery needs to be replaced within three to ten years
  • Some can have a limited speed and distance range before needing to charge

Read more:

** Links to retailers marked with ** or underlined orange are partially partner links: If you buy here, you actively support, because we will receive a small part of the sales proceeds. More info.

Do you like this post?

Thank you very much for voting!