Electric Vehicles: A Complete Guide

With climate change progressively worsening, the world faces the need to move away from fossil fuel dependency to more sustainable alternative energy sources and technologies. Electric cars are one such alternative. If you are considering acquiring an electric vehicle, here is a complete guide to electric vehicles.

What Are Electric Vehicles?

Today’s electric vehicles have history to thank if they have taken center stage and are poised to lead the  future of transportation. The first electric vehicle was invented before gasoline powered cars. It was created in the 1830s by Scotsman Robert Anderson. It was a motorized carriage. Unfortunately, its battery was not rechargeable.

Thomas Parker created electric vehicle prototypes in 1859 and 1884 with batteries that could be recharged, William Morrison patented an electric vehicle in 1887 in Des Moines, Iowa. 

The auto industry continued to entertain the idea of marketing electric vehicles, but along came Henry Ford with his Model T. Ford’s car had lower production costs and used gasoline. The two 20th century wars paved the way for computer technology, although not immediately used in vehicles. Gas still reigned until climate change caught up.

Today’s electric vehicles are BEVs – Battery Electric Vehicles. BEVS are just one alternative within a broader product sector. BEVs run solely on electricity. They do not use gas at all. The technology in these autos stress energy in batteries that recharge. They may incorporate more than one motor to power the car.

Other options include Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles/PHEVs and Hybrid Electric Vehicles/HEVs.

HEVs have a rechargeable battery but are not plug-in. The battery recharges while you drive. HEVs use plug-in recharging for battery power. PHEVs have a range of 30 to 60 miles before they switch to gasoline depending on the manufacturer and model.

How Do Electric Vehicles Function?

The battery is literally the heart of an electric vehicle. A traction battery pack will store necessary energy. Most batteries are made from lithium because they are lighter in weight and can store high amounts of energy. Larger batteries usually indicate a larger range. BEVs generally have larger batteries than either PHEVs or HEVs.

An electric traction motor will convert the stored energy into mechanical energy. An electrical transmission will move energy from the motor to the wheels, so the vehicle moves forward. Electric vehicles can be all-wheel drive, front-wheel drive, or rear-wheel drive.

BEVs also have an extra feature known as regenerative braking. When you remove your foot from the car’s accelerator, the motor moves in reverse and uses the car’s forward motion to convert into energy. The battery stores the energy to continue powering the engine. This mechanism recovers energy that might be lost.

BEVs and PHEVs use an external electrical source with a charging plug to recharge batteries. An electronic computerized system converts electrical current to the correct power level for battery charging.

Who Are the Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles?

Traditional Automakers

Legacy auto manufacturers spurred by industry upstart Tesla, gradually have begun to switch many of their car models to BEVs. Some popular models include:

  • Audi (E-tron)
  • BMW (i3)
  • Chevrolet (Bolt EV)
  • Nissan (LEAF)

Manufacturers Kia, Hyundai, and Toyota have instead introduced numerous models of PHEVs into product lines.

Auto manufacturers are investing billions in sustainable technology to fuel an electric vehicle transition.

Tesla

Traditional automakers were challenged when Tesla came on the scene to disrupt the status quo. Tesla took it upon themselves to commercialize BEVs within the auto industry and their cars can now be found globally and have opened the way for other start-ups to follow suit.

Costs Associated with Acquiring Electric Vehicles

Such advanced technology comes with a price tag attached. BEVs generally cost considerably more than gasoline powered vehicles. Costs are higher above all due to the vehicle batteries.

The U.S. government as well as governments in Europe have introduced financial incentives to lower costs to stimulate purchases of electric vehicles. Tax credits, rebates, perks, and exemptions are on the table to aid in fueling sales.

Perhaps the most well-known is the Federal Qualified PEV tax credit which can deduct as much as $7500 from the price of eligible electric vehicles. 

Many savings incentives are cumulative meaning you may get a car with a price tag of more than $30,000 for just over $20,000. As more electric cars are sold, the process will inevitably drop, with electric vehicle prices rivaling those of gasoline powered vehicle prices.

Do Electrical Vehicles Help the Environment?

Three factors need to be considered when evaluating an electrical vehicle’s impact on the environment. These include:

  • Direct emissions from tailpipes

Electrical cars lack an exhaust system so there are zero tailpipe emissions.

  • Wheel-to-well emissions

This term signifies all emissions that result from producing the car, vehicle distribution, and the electricity involved. Electric power plants will produce emissions. An electric vehicle produces less than half of CO2 or carbon dioxide as a gasoline fueled car annually. 

  • Electrical sources 

Emissions from charging a vehicle will depend on where you live and charge your car. Surprisingly recharging in Colorado may be more polluting than in Massachusetts because Colorado electricity production is fueled by coal. 

Massachusetts uses much cleaner natural gas for electricity production. The best option is electricity produced by renewable energy as with solar panels.

Undoubtedly, electric vehicles can begin to make a dent in air pollution and greenhouse gas, although until adopted on a global level, it will only be a first step.

Lithium mining in South America for battery production also has an impact. This type of mining depletes natural water resources and harms the local ecosystem. Fields, meadows, and lagoons have gradually disappeared making life difficult for local farmers and wildlife populations. Recycling batteries will mitigate some of the environmental impact.

The Pros and Cons of an Electric Vehicle

Selecting an electric vehicle comes with both advantages and drawbacks, so let’s consider a few of the principal pros and cons involved.

Pros

  • Fuel Costs

Fuel costs should be cheaper because most local providers offer residential electricity prices, so it costs several cents per hour. Some electricity providers may cost even less. Electricity also costs less than petroleum and pricings fluctuate less.

  • Maintenance Costs

Electric vehicles have notably lower maintenance costs. Motors feature fewer moving parts and the regenerative brake system slows vehicles down meaning braking systems last longer.

Parts like filters, oils, and spark plugs are not relevant to electrical vehicles, further cutting costs.

  • Noise Pollution

Electric vehicles are quieter as electric motors do not emit noise.

  • Vehicle Efficiency

Electric vehicles are much more efficient than gas fueled vehicles. Gas vehicles convert only 12 to 30% of gasoline energy, while BEVs can convert more than 77% or electrical energy. The EPA – Environmental protection Agency compares costs using statistics.

Cons

While electrical vehicles are superior in several aspects, nothing is free of drawbacks. The principal disadvantage is connected to batteries. Manufacturers are required under federal regulations to offer a warranty for 8 years or 100,000 miles. When replacing an electrical vehicle battery, they can cost more than $5,000.

A Few Final Factors

Savings at the pump, less pollution, and frontier technology are all enticing, but consider a few of these final factors before arriving at your final decision.

  • Daily driving needs 
  • Availability of an electric charging station
  • Immediate higher prices for long-term savings
  • Commitment to the environment 

If an electrical vehicle answers your specific transportation needs, then go for it! Mother Nature will thank you.

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