Electric cars: The future of the automobile

Everyone is well aware of the utility of electric cars, otherwise known as electric vehicles (EV). These vehicles are rapidly solidifying their position as the futuristic, environmentally-friendly and high-performing automobile, with ambitious forecasts stating that in 2030, 40% of all new global car sales will be electric. 

There is no denying the sheer impact that electric cars are making (and are going to make), but how much concrete information do we know about them? In this article, we will dive into some of the pressing discussions talked about with these cars.

First of all, how do electric cars work?

Electric cars are powered by a unique electric motor, which is controlled by energy held in rechargeable batteries. When a driver accelerates, the electric motor takes electricity from the batteries and transforms it into rotational force, which is then transmitted to the wheels, propelling the vehicle forward.

Because EVs use electricity, there is no exhaust from the tailpipe and no normal liquid fuel components such as a fuel pump, fuel line, or fuel canister are present. These cars are charged using specific electrical outlets and charging stations.

EVs generally use lithium-ion batteries, which are similar to the batteries found in laptops and mobile phones. These batteries can hold a lot of energy in a remarkably small and lightweight compartment, making them perfect for use in cars. The distance an EV can drive on a single charge is determined by the size and volume of its battery.

Compared to combustion engines, electric motors generate more torque, and their power is transmitted directly to the wheels, eliminating the need for a traditional transmission. This direct transfer of power enables instant acceleration and a smoother driving experience.

Types of electric cars available

Battery electric vehicles (BEV) 

A battery electric vehicle is a type of EV that is powered solely by electricity. BEVs use a single (or multiple) onboard batteries, and are considered to be the most environmentally friendly vehicles for their zero tailpipe emissions.

Some of the most common BEV cars include the Ka e-Niro, Volkswagen ID.3, Nissan Leaf, MINI Electric and the Polester 2.

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV)

This is a car that has a battery, electric drive motor and an internal combustion engine (ICE) that can be powered through electricity, or gas.

A high performing vehicle, PHEVs typically have an electric-only range of 50 miles before switching to hybrid mode, which provides a limitless driving range.

PHEVs must be charged on a regular basis in order to be cost-effective; otherwise, they can be more costly to run than conventional petroleum or diesel cars.

PHEV cars include the Hyundai Ioniq, Toyota Prius, BMW i3 and Kia Niro

Extended range electric vehicle (E-REV)

E-REVs are a variant of plug-in hybrids that incorporate a battery, electric drive motor, and a compact petrol or diesel generator. The electric motor provides constant propulsion, with the ICE serving as a generator to replenish the battery when it is depleted. You can find several large car manufacturers making these vehicles including BMX, Toyota and more.

What you should know before buying an electric car

If you’re considering buying an electric car, there are a few things you should know about before making your purchase.

Distance: Because electric vehicles have a limited range, you should consider your regular driving distance. Make sure the car’s range is adequate for your requirements (e.g. you can work daily, go on long trips).

Charge: Whether at home or at public charging stations, you’ll need a spot to power your electric vehicle. Research the available charging stations around your area as well as their charging capabilities.

Cost: The upfront cost of an electric car is generally more expensive than a regular ICE one, however over time you will definitely save a lot of money on fuel because the cost of electricity vs gas or diesel is much smaller, and also the likelihood of breakdowns and faults is less likely than that of conventional cars.

Maintenance: Electric cars have fewer moving parts than gasoline cars, which means they require less maintenance. However, you’ll still need to have the battery and electrical systems checked regularly, which sometimes can be more expensive than traditional maintenance.

Driving experience: Electric cars feel different to gas powered ones. This is because electric motors are capable of generating maximum torque at 0 rpm, resulting in a sense of instant acceleration at lower speeds compared to their gas-powered counterparts. This characteristic leads to electric vehicles feeling faster than gasoline cars, even though they may not always have higher top speeds or faster acceleration times.

How much does it cost to charge an electric car?

The cost of charging an electric car varies depending on a number of factors, including the size of the car’s battery, the EV model, the efficiency of the charging station, and the cost of electricity in your area. Generally speaking, the cost of charging an electric car is much lower than the cost of fueling a traditional gas-powered car. Most owners of electric cars save about $2000 per month

In New Zealand, the average cost to charge an EV ranges from $3 to $10 per 100km. If you leave your car to charge overnight you are looking at around the lower end but if you need to charge your car as quickly as possible you would expect to pay around $10 per 100km.

In addition, the government has adopted discount policies to lower the initial cost of purchasing electric cars. If you are registering a new or used plug-in electric or hybrid car for the first time in New Zealand, you are qualified for a significant refund. Electric vehicles are also free from Road Usage Charges until 2024.

How long does it take to charge an electric car?

The time it takes to fully charge an electric vehicle generally depends the following factors:

  • Location of charging station (e.g. whether it is a public station or a charging port at home)
  • The car’s battery size;
  • Outside temperature
  • Temperature of charging station

There are currently seven methods of charging available in New Zealand which all have varied levels of output.

Trickle charge (8 km/30 min) Mode 2 power supply, which takes about 8 hours to fully charge.

Slow charge (20km/30mi) – Mode 3 power supply, takes approximately 6-8 hours to fully charge.

Medium charge (40 km/30 min) Mode 3 power supply, around 4 hours charging time.

Fast charge (80 km/30 min) – Enhanced Mode 3 AC charging system.

Rapid charge (100 km/30 min) Mode 4 (DC) power supply.

Supercharging (170 km/30 min) – This charging option is typically available for only Tesla models.

Electric cars are becoming increasingly popular and may, at some point in the future, drive conventional diesel and petrol cars off the road. However, despite this immense global integration of electric cars in society, a lot of people still lack fundamental knowledge of EV maintenance, and an even less understanding of what to do if an emergency arises

Safety features of an eclectic car

Modern electric vehicles are built to withstand collisions, and in some respects, their safety features outperform those of ICE versions. 

For example, the battery of an EV is located under the car floor, so in the event of a side collision the probability that the car would rollover is lower as the vehicle houses its heaviest component at its base. This structural feature also facilitates the creation of large crumple zones in the front and rear which are better equipped to absorb and redirect collision force.

What happens if my EV is caught in a flood?

Water and electricity are a dangerous combination. Luckily though, almost all modern electric cars are designed in a way that can withstand rain, floods, and hail. A working battery is completely sealed, and all connections and contacts are securely isolated. 

As for more severe and prolonged floods, the electric motors and batteries are likely to survive them unscathed. But all other parts of an electric car will suffer just like on any other car. The biggest threat is corrosion on the control unit boards and inside the connectors.

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