How Electric Cars Work

Our question is, “…How electric cars work?”

The answer is, “Quite well, thank you.”

Of course that doesn’t explain the interesting system that powers such a vehicle. It doesn’t help the owner understand just what is happening around him as he travels down the road.
Millions of people have driven thousands of miles in gasoline-powered cars through the years without knowing any more about the complex vehicle than how to turn the key and step on the accelerator. This is possible with electric cars too, but many of the people who drive such eco autos want to understand how electric cars work.
We hope you are one of the curious owner/driver types.

How Electric Cars Work – Some Facts

Electric cars come in a variety of styles and types. There are hybrid cars that selectively use gasoline power and electric power. There are new electric vehicles built by car companies that are gaining in popularity. Some creative and energetic folks are building their own cars with parts purchased from suppliers. In this field, variety is certainly the spice of life.

One thing all of these vehicles have in common is the power that comes from batteries. These cars don’t have to look different to be an electric vehicle, at least not until you see the group of batteries and the specific electric car parts that make it move.

You will find that electric cars are much quieter than gasoline or diesel vehicles, not to mention that they don’t contribute directly to air pollution (no fuel exhaust).

One of the simplest explanations of the difference between gasoline-powered cars and electric cars is this:

  • A gasoline-powered vehicle is a plumbing project designed to get liquid fuel through pipes and hoses to be burned.
  • An electric vehicle is a wiring project. Builders have to bring the electrical power from batteries to the motor and then to the wheels.

Mechanical/Electrical Overview of Electric Cars

There is no muffler, tailpipe or gas tank in an electric car. If the car has a manual transmission it is usually “pinned” or secured in second gear.

There won’t be any clutch-pedal activity. The electric car motor is attached to the transmission with an adapter and the motor is controlled by, you guessed it, an electric controller.

The description of components on a common electric car might include the use of a group of 12-volt batteries secured in the rear or center of the car. These batteries produce varying voltages, depending on number of batteries and the specific system used.

Electric motors have to be used to give you power steering and to operate items such as air conditioning. Electric heaters are used for heating the interior of the car in cold weather. These would get their power (and heat) from the gasoline engine in other cars.

One design uses a switch for power, with the transmission shifter demoted to putting the motor in forward or reverse drive. Some electric cars have on-board chargers and some even have solar panels on the roof to keep a charge in the batteries. Most vehicles have a 120-volt and/or 240-volt connector so the car can be charged when plugged into a standard wall outlet.

Staying Informed Etc.

Remember how you used to watch the fuel gauge in your “old” gasoline-powered vehicle?

You still do?

Well, you are not alone. The number of people who drive cars powered by electricity is very small. But if you make the move to an electric vehicle your fuel gauge will be replaced by a voltage meter. You will know how much “juice” is in your battery pack.

Most of the operations in an electric vehicle are similar to those in a gasoline-powered car. You turn a key to the on position and put your shifter into forward/drive then press on the accelerator pedal to move. This pedal is connected to a potentiometer, sort of like a volume control for your car. These are also known as variable resistors. This connects to the controller and the batteries.

In simple terms, pushing the pedal all the way to the floor delivers the full voltage of the battery pack to the motor. Newer designs have two potentiometers that must operate in sync, for safety reasons. This prevents the situation in which a single potentiometer sticks “open” or at full power.

Electric car batteries are heavy, especially in a vehicle designed to travel 50 to 100 miles or more on a charge. But most of the up-to-date electric cars can travel 60 miles per hour on the open road.

It may take that car a little while longer to get to cruising speed but it will be quieter and put out a lot less smoke!

The best part – you can design the charging plug to be located under the fuel door. Just open the door and plug your car in overnight!

We hope that you now know a bit more about how electric cars work!