How an Electric Car Works

electric car

How an Electric Car Works

An electric car uses an electric motor to propel itself. They use either a battery or a fuel cell, which runs on compressed hydrogen (fuel cell EVs are still relatively new).

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The battery is the heart of the electric vehicle, converting chemical energy into electricity that powers the motor. Each EV battery contains electrochemical cells with two half-cells that hold positively and negatively charged subatomic particles, or electrons. When the cells are connected, electrons flow from the negative to the positive electrode and the result is electricity. The EV’s battery pack is made of a group of hundreds of these cells to make up a module, which then is enclosed in the car’s battery casing. The battery pack is located under the floor of most EVs.

Just like lithium-ion batteries in consumer electronics, EVs’ batteries electric car do degrade over time and through repeated charge cycles. But this drop-off is much less severe than in many smaller devices that require far more frequent recharges.

Thanks to constant innovation, EV batteries have seen tremendous improvement. As a result, drivers can drive an EV for greater distances without worrying about range anxiety, a fear that has long held back EV sales.

The best way to preserve an EV’s battery life is simply to drive sensibly, as with any car. Ensure the tires are properly inflated, as driving on under-inflated tires takes more energy to propel the vehicle, and use the car’s maximum regenerative braking setting, which sends power back to the battery while slowing the car.


Many new electric cars come with a charger as part of the package deal. If yours doesn’t, you can buy an EV charger for your home, which plugs into the standard outlet that most gas-powered vehicles use, or for charging on the go. Most EV chargers are UL Listed, meaning that they’re safe to use.

You can also find public EV chargers in many places, including office buildings, shopping centers and cities that install streetside ones (though some people have been flopping cords across their sidewalks for months without getting ticketed). If your car supports it, Level 3 / DC Fast Charging is the fastest way to juice up, though most manufacturers warn that heavy use of super-fast charging will reduce battery lifespan.

A quick plug-in at a public charger ought to cost less than filling up your gas tank, but rates vary by location and hour of day. Your electricity provider may offer incentives to charge during off-peak hours, which typically begin late in the evening and run through the early morning.

It’s a good idea to choose an EV charger with output control, which allows you to limit the amount of power it sends to your vehicle. This is a safety measure to prevent overheating, and it’s also a good idea if you’re a grid-sensitive consumer who wants to minimize your impact on the electrical system at peak times of demand, such as during hot summer afternoons or frigid winter mornings.


Electric car motors turn electrical power into mechanical power that drives the wheels. They use a fraction of the parts found in internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, which can have hundreds of moving parts.

EV motors are efficient, reliable and require less maintenance than ICE engines. They have a higher power density, meaning they can deliver more torque from a lower RPM — important for accelerating from a stop and maintaining high speeds on the highway.

Different types of EV motors exist, but they all have two major components: a stator and rotor. The stator is a stationary outer shell that’s mounted to the chassis like an engine block, while the rotor is the lone rotating electric car element. The motor feeds torque out of the transmission and onto a differential, which in turn creates traction on the wheels.

The EV motor is powered by DC current from the battery pack and manipulated through an inverter. The inverter is a crucial piece of equipment that allows an electric vehicle to operate using its own power or from the public grid via a standard charging cable or fast charge point.

An EV’s motor can be selected with far-reaching implications for a conversion, but it’s important to consider the power requirement in context of the rest of the system design. An EV’s physical size, battery capacity and weight will impact the performance of its motor and range between charges.


The transmission in an electric car works differently from the multi-speed one found in a gas powered vehicle. Rather than shifting gears, most electric cars use a single-speed transmission that delivers power from the motor to the wheels. This provides smooth, efficient acceleration without the jerking movements associated with a traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle.

EVs are more compact, have fewer moving parts, and require less maintenance than a traditional ICE vehicle, saving you money on the cost of ownership. Their single-speed transmission allows you to accelerate quickly, quietly, and smoothly.

Most EVs also feature regenerative braking, which captures and reuses energy from the wheels while slowing the car. This reduces the amount of wear and tear on the brakes, which saves you money on maintenance and repairs.

Many people wonder why an EV doesn’t need a shiftable transmission. The reason is that a gasoline-powered engine has a specific RPM range that is optimal for power and efficiency. The transmission is designed to keep the engine within this range, which is why a conventional ICE car needs multiple gears. An electric motor, on the other hand, can deliver its full torque from zero rpm to any speed, so it doesn’t need a specific RPM range. In addition, the power is delivered instantly to the wheels, which makes EVs more responsive and nimble.