In a world where we are burning up fuel at an astounding rate and producing incredible amounts of carbon emissions, the time was always going to come when something had to give. We couldn’t continue to drive our existing petrol and diesel vehicles indefinitely so a change was inevitable. This page is dedicated to about electric cars and explains them in a simple yet comprehensive manner.
Electric cars are that change and are set to revolutionise the entire transport industry. They are automobiles propelled by electric motors and use electrical energy stored in batteries or an alternative energy storage device. With these motors, electric cars have smooth acceleration and instant torque. Best of all, they produce minimal emissions and can run on renewable energy.
Brief History of Electric Cars
You would be forgiven for thinking electric cars are a brand new invention but the first electric cars were developed way back in the 1880s! Incredibly, electric cars were very popular until the early part of the 20th century when internal combustion engine technological advances along with mass production of cheap gasoline cars saw electric drive vehicles disregarded.
Although there was the briefest of renaissances in the 1970s and 1980s due to energy crises, electric cars have only returned to the cusp of mass market appeal at the beginning of the 21st century.
How An Electric Car Works
Believe it or not, an electric car works in a similar manner to other electric devices except for the fact a much larger battery is used. The modern electric car typically uses a lithium-ion battery pack composed of smaller cells grouped into modules.
While many cars use 100-200 large format cells, Tesla, one of the leading electric car manufacturers, uses thousands of smaller cells similar to what you may find in your laptop. While your computer may use up to 10 cells, a Tesla electric car will use 5,000!
As the battery pack is heavy, it is normally mounted close to the ground; models such as the Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf use thin and flat batteries placed beneath the passenger compartment.
This battery powers an electric motor which turns the wheels of your car. In engineering terms, electric cars are easy to design because no transmission is needed to match the engine’s speed of peak output to speed on the road.
The electric motor powers the car and also converts into a generator which recharges the battery when the driver puts on the brakes or when the car glides. As a result, electric cars are far more efficient than regular and hybrid vehicles.
This process is known as ‘regenerative braking’ and can recapture as much as 33% of the energy needed to put the car in motion.
There are also power electronics which are comprised of heavy-duty circuits and other components; these change the voltage of the electricity used by different components and also convert it from Direct Current (DC) to Alternating Current (AC) and vice versa. There is an onboard charger which takes wall current from the charging plug and converts it into the kind of electricity needed to recharge the car’s battery pack.
Finally, there are radiators which shed heat from liquid coolant and this circulates through the power electronics, battery and motor to ensure they all stay running at the right temperature. For best results, you need the electric car batteries to stay at a temperature of around 20 degrees Celsius.
Why Choose Electric Cars?
- Pollution Reduction: Traditional vehicles powered by internal combustion engines produce a far greater level of pollution than electric cars. While the electricity for the vehicles may sometimes be generated by the burning of fossil fuels, electric cars recharged from electric generators powered by coal cut carbon emissions by 50%. When electric vehicles are recharged from hydropower or nuclear plant energy, carbon emissions get cut by around 99%!
- Recyclable: Electric car batteries can be recycled so there will be no problem with disposed batteries polluting the landscape.
- Operating Costs: Much is made of how expensive electric cars are initially but once this hurdle has been overcome, the operating and overhead costs are much lower than a traditional vehicle. The escalating cost of diesel and petrol is really eating into the bank accounts of motorists and it is becoming more difficult to keep a car on the road. Eventually, the cost of electric cars will come down and be far cheaper than their traditional counterparts.
- Improved Range: One of the big complaints about electric cars was their lack of range with many models unable to travel more than 40-50 miles on a full charge. The distance per charge number is now well beyond 200 miles in advanced models and this will extend still further when the technology surrounding the vehicles improves. Additionally, most people don’t drive more than 30 miles in a single journey so it’s almost a moot point.
Popularity of Electric Cars
Up until a few years ago, you would hardly ever spot an electric car on the road but times are changing. Major car manufacturers such as Nissan, Renault, Tesla and Mitsubishi have invested heavily in the production of electric cars as they believe the demand will increase. The Nissan Leaf is by the far the biggest selling electric car model; it has sold approximately 120,000 units since its launch in December 2010 with this figure correct as at June 2014.
It is difficult to get a full worldwide sales picture but we do know that 150,000 units have been sold in America and Western Europe combined since 2010 and sales figures have been rising steadily year-on-year. Clearly, the general public are being won over slowly but surely and it is only a matter of time before the electric car industry begins to win a significant share of the market.
The UK Government is doing its bit for electric car promotion by offering a maximum £5,000 Plug-In Grant to those who purchase new electric cars of a certain battery size. At Totally Electric Cars, we plan to continue promoting this fantastic new mode of transportation which can help reduce emissions while offering a smooth and comfortable ride.