Pure all-electric vehicles were actually extremely popular with city dwellers in the early 1900s until low cost, reliable internal combustion engines (ICEs) were developed. Electric vehicles (EVs) have gained attention once again. Most automakers have developed or are developing EVs as alternatives to ICE vehicles.
Battery Technology. EVs have to be plugged in to recharge their high voltage/high capacity batteries. When driving, the chemical energy stored in batteries is converted to electricity to run electric motors that propel the vehicle. The release of mass-produced and practical EVs was dependent on high-capacity batteries. Lithium-ion batteries, used in current EVs, have a higher energy output and weigh less than older generation rechargeable batteries (e.g., Nickel Metal Hydride). EV drivers may have range anxiety due to a limited nationwide fast recharging infrastructure. Time to recharge an EV’s battery pack can vary from 15 minutes to 24 hours depending on the battery pack’s state of charge, available charging voltage, the EV’s onboard DC charger, and its battery capacity.
Range. Range in an EV is greatly affected by driving style, cabin climate control, speed, cargo weight, and road topography. The dash on an EV may show estimated remaining drive range and the time to 100% charge based on a 120V, 240V, or 480V power source.
Electric Motor Drivetrain. In a common EV drivetrain, a large electric motor connects to constant velocity (CV) shafts that connect to the wheels. This is like a conventional vehicle, except the power source is the electric motor and not an ICE.
In-Wheel Electric Motor Drivetrain. An emerging electric drive configuration uses integrated in-wheel electric motors that fit in the space behind the wheel. This direct drive system incorporates regenerative braking while eliminating the CV shafts and their drivetrain losses, making it even more efficient. Each wheel can work independently providing more control and performance than other drive systems.
Advantages of the Electric Drivetrain. With a 100% EV you eliminate the need for refueling, there is no muffler to rust out, and you never need to perform a tune-up or oil change – just firmware updates. Electric motors provide a powerful, quiet, smooth operation. Electric vehicles don’t have tailpipe emissions, but the power plant providing the electricity may emit pollutants.
Sources of Electricity. The true well-to-wheel efficiency of electric vehicles really depends on where the source of energy originates. For example, if the source of electricity is mostly hydroelectric the vehicle is extremely efficient and environmentally friendly. However, if the majority of the electrical source is from a fossil fuel burning power plant, the environmental impact is greater. Each part of the United States has differing amounts of electric sources.