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Electric Car Guide: How Do They Work?

Electric Car Guide: How Do They Work?

The EV market is expanding, and many new owners want to understand more about how their vehicles function. While it's common knowledge that an internal combustion engine works through the ignition of fuels, pistons, and a system of gears within the powertrain, not everyone knows the exact way an electric battery and motor can propel a car. Several components help an electric vehicle work, depending on what type of electric car they are and how they are manufactured.

How Does an Electric Car Work?

To understand how electric cars work, you first need to know what type of vehicle you own. While the basic mechanisms behind how an electric car functions, i.e., with a battery powering an electric motor and other auxiliary parts, the exact way an EV works changes marginally for each type. How an EV works also depends on whether its electric components work in tandem with an internal combustion engine.

There are three main types of electric cars including:

  • Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle
  • All Electric Vehicle
  • Hybrid-electric Vehicle

How Does a Plug-in Hybrid Car Work?

How Does a Plug-in Hybrid Car Work?

A plug-in hybrid vehicle, also known as a PHEV, is powered mainly by electricity but often has an internal combustion engine that runs on gasoline, diesel, or alternative fuel. Plug-in hybrids have relatively large batteries but usually won't achieve the same range (on battery power alone) that an all-electric vehicle can achieve. That being said, they have the advantage of choosing to draw power from their combustion engine or battery.

Some PHEVs can get as far as 50 miles using electric power alone and several hundred miles using their gas or diesel engine. However, unlike all-electric or hybrid vehicles, most PHEVs don't have regenerative braking and can't recharge purely from the energy of their combustion engine. So, for the most part, you must plug the battery in to recharge it, which can take anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours, depending on how powerful your charger is.

One of the downsides of PHEVs is that you have to deal with the additional weight of the electric battery pack. While not true for all models, this can negatively affect the fuel economy when you compare its capabilities to conventional automobiles. PHEVs also tend to cost more than internal combustion engine cars, though prices have decreased in recent years.

How Does an All-Electric Car Work?

All-electric vehicles, also known as battery electric vehicles or BEVs, do away with the internal combustion engine in favor of a vehicle propelled by electric power. These vehicles do not feature combustion of any kind nor a traditional fuel tank; instead, an electric battery stores energy and transfers power to the motor, which then moves the wheels.

Electric cars fill their batteries from charging stations, which can vary in power and effectiveness. A level 1 charger, which most drivers would have at home, can take as long as 50 hours to fill up a battery completely. A level 2 charger, which is more costly but can also be installed at a driver's house, can take between 6 and 12 hours. The fastest charging station, level 3, can fill up a battery in about 30 minutes; these charge points are often prohibitively expensive to install but are available at some public charging stations.

In addition to charging at stations, all-electric cars can also partially fill up their batteries with regenerative braking. Typically When you step on the brake, friction is created by the discs and brake pads and turned into heat. Regenerative braking takes this kinetic energy, usually lost during the braking process, and recycles it back into the battery for reuse. As a result, regenerative braking can drastically increase a vehicle's single-charge range, boosting an all-electric car's efficiency and keeping you on the road far longer.

How Does a Hybrid-Electric Car Work?

How Does a Hybrid-Electric Car Work?

Hybrid-electric cars, or HEVs, have two engines (similar to plug-in hybrids.) the significant difference between the two is that for a plug-in hybrid, the electric battery is the primary power source. In contrast, the battery in a hybrid car is used primarily as an auxiliary power source. The battery in a hybrid electric vehicle will help at slower speeds, with starting up, and with idling, all of which help increase the car's fuel economy overall. While this does help improve the fuel efficiency of the vehicle and reduce its emissions, it still relies heavily on fossil fuels.

While hybrid-electric cars are the least efficient and environmentally friendly of the three, they often perform better. This increased output is due to them primarily relying on their internal combustion engine, which can produce a massive amount of horsepower. However, this advantage is starting to be challenged by other EV types as the EV industry is working on creating faster and faster all-electric vehicles. One noteworthy recent model is the 2022 GMC Hummer EV, which can go from 0 to 60mph in as little as 3.3 seconds.

How Can I Tell If an EV Works?

If you want to avoid purchasing a damaged EV or one that does not function, you'll want to do research ahead of time. The best way to do that is by looking into the vehicle's history and finding out more about its manufacturing origins. Running a vehicle history report on a used car lets you can see important details about its past, like its accident history, title history, and ownership history.

With these tools, you can check the information being provided to you by the seller and see if they are being truthful. The unfortunate reality of the used EV market is that many sellers will do whatever they can to maximize their profit, even if this means committing fraud. If an EV has hidden damage, especially to the battery, you may have to pay thousands in repairs shortly after your purchase. With some scams, like curbstoning, wire fraud, and title washing, it may be challenging to locate the criminal after the money has changed hands. Your best course of action is to research the vehicle before committing to anything, so you know what to expect once you make the purchase.