Buy an electric car? Are you thinking of an EV for the future? These are the questions you want answered.
Electric vehicles (EVs) are increasingly popular. In 2020, there were about 1.8 million electric vehicles registered in the United States, three times more than in 2016. Globally, there were about 10.2 million electric vehicles in 2020.
So why are electric cars becoming so popular? In this article, we’ll cover 10 of the most common electric car questions you might be concerned about.
1. How do electric cars work?
Unlike traditional cars that use gasoline to power combustion engines, electric cars operate exactly as they sound – electronically.
They have batteries that are charged via the power grid. These batteries are made up of thousands of (usually) rechargeable lithium-ion battery cells. They contain a large amount of electrical energy that is used to power the electric motor. Additionally, batteries require sophisticated cooling systems to regulate the temperature around the battery to support its efficiency, lifespan and safety.
Electric motors are, surprisingly, much simpler than traditional combustion engines. There are two main types of electric motors: alternating current (AC) induction motors and permanent magnet direct current (DC) motors. Permanent magnet DC motors are generally smaller, lighter, and more efficient at maximum current.
Electric cars also typically have a single speed transmission, which means they can accelerate faster than most internal combustion engines.
2. How far can electric cars travel?
The distance an electric car can travel is called “range”. The larger the battery, the greater its energy storage capacity and the greater the autonomy. Range is measured in miles per kilowatt hour (kWh).
Many newer EVs can go just under 200 miles on a single charge. Some, like the Tesla Model S, can travel over 300 miles.
3. What happens if the battery dies?
If the battery runs out, the electric vehicle must be towed to the nearest charging station. This can damage the battery and shorten its life. But, once recharged, the car will operate normally again.
4. How long will an electric car battery last?
An electric vehicle battery should last at least 100,000 to 200,000 miles. This equates to about 10 or 20 years. Tesla reports that the Model S’s battery will lose about 5% of its capacity during the first 50,000 kilometers. After that, the battery life will decrease much more slowly.
Most electric vehicle manufacturers offer battery warranties of 5 or 8 years or 100,000 miles. Most reputable manufacturers will replace a battery that has dropped to 60-70% of its capacity during this time.
There are a few things you can do to make sure your EV battery lasts longer:
- Make sure you only buy an electric vehicle with high performance thermal regulation.
- Try to avoid charging too fast as this will shorten the battery life.
- Set the charger to charge at 80% of its capacity. Overloading the battery can negatively affect it.
- Do not allow the battery to reach 0% capacity.
- Keeping the battery between 50 and 80% of its capacity is optimal.
5. Where to charge electric cars?
You can charge electric vehicles at designated charging stations. Depending on the brand, you can also purchase charging stations for your home, and some brands have charging equipment that easily connects to any outlet. Charging stations are generally available in three or four speeds: 3.7 kW, 7 kW, 22 kW and fast charging stations over 40 kW.
The number of charging stations in the world is multiplying. There are nearly 100,000 charging stations on the American continent.
6. How long does it take to charge a battery?
It depends on the size of the battery and the type of charger. An electric car with a 60 kWh battery will take about 8 hours to recharge with a 7 kW charger.
Most home charging stations will be either 3.7kW or 7kW, and these will charge relatively slowly (adding 15 or 30 miles per hour of charge, respectively). There are also quick charge outlets available in some places that will charge a battery in under an hour, but can reduce battery life if used too frequently.
Most electric vehicle owners will plug their car in every time they park it, allowing the charging station to “charge” the battery every time.
7. Are electric vehicle batteries toxic and can they be recycled?
Lithium-ion batteries contain many toxic chemicals that can be harmful to the environment. Although they can be recycled, the current recycling rate for Li-ion batteries around the world is less than 5% .
Lithium-ion batteries can be recycled in two ways: the cheaper, less efficient and less environmentally friendly method called pyrometallurgy, and the more expensive but environmentally friendly method called hydrometallurgy.
Typically, most lithium-ion batteries end up in landfills, a problem regulators are trying to address before electric cars get even more popular. Finding an alternative power source may be the best answer to this problem.
8. Are electric cars a fire hazard?
Not necessarily. Electric vehicles contain many flammable parts, as do vehicles with internal combustion engines. In the United States, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has conducted a study [PDF] and found that lithium-ion electric cars likely have comparable, if not lower, fire hazards than internal combustion engine vehicles.
9. Are electric cars greener than traditional cars?
Electric vehicles do not produce polluting exhaust gases and are also more efficient than gasoline cars. Electric vehicles also generally have lower emissions despite relying to some extent on coal-fired power plants for their electricity. For example, the electric Chevrolet Bolt produces 189 grams of carbon dioxide per mile, while a gasoline Toyota Camry produces 385 grams.
But their emissions depend on the quality of the electrical network from which their batteries are charged. For example, if an electric grid generates electricity using only coal-fired power stations, an electric car can produce more emissions than a gasoline-powered car.
Electric vehicles also require rare earth elements, including lithium and cobalt, which are dangerous for the environment and very polluting to be extracted and refined. Cobalt is also strongly linked to human rights concerns, and lithium requires massive amounts of water to be produced.
So, while electric vehicles on the whole are generally greener than traditional cars, there are several issues that still need to be addressed to make them more environmentally friendly.
10. How much do electric cars cost to operate and maintain?
Electric vehicles have fewer moving parts than traditional cars, so they are generally less expensive to maintain. Indeed, there are fewer parts to check and replace. But, it is important to take into account other costs such as installing a charging system, replacing batteries in the event of a problem and the costs of electricity versus fuel. Service costs also vary depending on the manufacturer.
The cost of electricity per kilometer depends on the cost of the electricity itself and the efficiency of the electric vehicle. If your battery requires 40 kWh to recharge and costs 15 cents per kWh in your area, that works out to a full $ 6.00. If, like the Tesla Model 3, your electric vehicle is rated at 24 kWh / 50 miles, a 50 mile ride will cost around $ 3.60.
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Electric cars are the future of transportation
As electric cars become more and more popular, it’s normal to wonder about how they work. Hope we’ve cleared up any confusion you may have had about electric vehicles!