The electric vehicle has been around for over 100 years however recent technical innovations, tax advantages and environmental concerns mean they are increasing with popularity. Electric cars are powered by an electric motor which draws its power from onboard battery packs which act as an energy store.
Batteries, usually Nickel metal-hydride or Lithium-ion are charged by simply connecting the vehicle to a mains power supply, and is usually charged overnight for a full charge or within a matter of hours for a fast charge. A feature of most modern electric cars is the regenerative braking system which allows the battery to be topped up when the brakes are applied.
Until just a few years ago, electric vehicles available in Australia were smaller 2 seater cars from small bespoke manufacturers with a range of 40 to 80 miles and a top speeds from 25 to 45 mph. These were usually classed as quadricycles and a number of safety concerns were raised with regards to their protection in an accident, even at low speeds.
More recently, electric cars are from mainstream manufacturers are larger five seat cars with ranges in excess of 100 miles. These are a lot larger, more comfortable, safer and more technically advanced.
Plug-in hybrid cars were available to the public for the first time in 2012. As well as being able to operate in purely electric mode with zero tailpipe emissions, they are coupled with a small and efficient petrol or diesel engine. This engine usually takes over when accelerating hard or at high speeds but its main advantage is the extended range available meaning all the benefits of an electric car, without the drawbacks.