Electric vehicles - All you need to know

Skyrocketing fuel pricing along with depleting oil resources and increased environmental concerns have pushed mankind to consider alternative sources of fuel to power automobiles. While most of the ideas are relatively new, the concept of using electricity to power vehicles has been around since the early 1800s.


Renault ZOE




Among all the wacky alternate fuel ideas that include everything from excreta to biodiesel, electricity has also been considered as an alternative to conventional fuels.  


Electric Vehicles (EVs) have been around since mid 1800s. During early years, electric vehicles had many advantages over cars powered by internal combustion engines. In those days, vehicles with internal combustion engines were started using a hand crank, whereas EVs could be started like regular cars today. EVs did not have gearboxes or the noise and vibration levels of a petrol-powered car. 


However, their expensive price tag and limited range led petrol powered car to prosper. Way back in 1912, an electric car cost $1750 (Rs 88,000) while a petrol-powered car sold for $650 (Rs 32,700). This massive price difference ultimately killed off the electric car during the early days of motoring.  



Renault ZOE




However, rising fuel prices, limited oil resources and environmental concerns have brought the electric car back into mainstream production line for automobiles. Almost all mainstream car makers have been building electric concept cars as well as production version of electric and hybrid cars. 







Today, electric cars consist of three key components – a battery, an electric motor and a direct current controller. Lithium ion batteries are the current trend in electric and hybrid cars as they allow more travelling range. The battery has to be charged to full, which can done from a traditional power outlet, for attaining the longest driving range. Direct Current (DC) motors are simpler and less expensive, and run on voltage between 96 and 192 volts.


Compared to a conventional fuel-powered vehicle, the working of EVs are relatively simpler to understand. Once an EV is turned on, the driver can depress the accelerator pedal that is connected to the direct current controller which directs the electric motor as to how much power it should use from the battery to power the wheels of the car. The latest trend used by electric vehicles is regenerative braking system that uses the friction caused by the brakes of a vehicle while slowing down and converts it into electricity, which is then used to charge the battery. This helps further increase the range of EVs. 


As an EV has such few components, there is little that goes wrong. As a result, they are cheaper to run and maintain on a daily basis than a conventional fuel-powered car. 



Nissan LEAF



The Nissan Leaf EV is a good example to give you an idea about the current state of EVs. The Leaf is currently on sale as an electric vehicle in various developed nations. It has a range of 160 – 180 km depending on the driving style. An aggressive driving style will lower the maximum range of an EV while a relaxed driving style will allow more driving range from the battery. It takes about eight hours to fully charge the battery of the Nissan Leaf from a conventional power outlet. The Nissan Leaf also comes with a quick charger that can charge 80 percent of the battery in 30 minutes. 


However, using the quick charger extensively will deplete the condition of the battery sooner than its life span of 5 – 10 years. The problem with a modern EV is that the cost of their lithium ion batteries are staggering, and having to replace them will mean an expense so high that it equates to buying a new conventional fuel-powered hatchback! 




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