How Do Electric Cars Work?

Although sales of gasoline-powered passenger vehicles dropped in 2019, electric vehicle sales continued to rise. In 2019, there were more than 7.2 million EVs on the road or in dealerships, which accounts for 1% of all global car stock, and that number continues to rise. One forecast predicts that more than half of new passenger vehicles sold worldwide will be electric by 2035 —and that’s before taking into account new U.S. policies incentivizing the purchase of EVs. 

You probably already know that EVs are more energy efficient than cars with internal combustion engines (ICE). But what other factors make them so different, how they work, and how are they manufactured for maximum safety and efficiency?  

How Do Electric Cars Work? The Basics 

Battery electric vehicles, sometimes called BEVs or just EVs, get their power from a lithium-ion battery instead of gasoline or diesel fuel. The battery powers the motor, which supplies energy to the gears and turns the wheels. With no alternator, no carburetor, no spark plugs and fewer parts overall, EVs require less maintenance. Beautiful they might be in their simplicity, however, they are models of modern engineering and technology. 

How Are EVs Manufactured? 

The chassis and body of most EVs are similar to internal combustion engine (or ICE) vehicles. That’s why many conventional vehicle manufacturers have taken the lead in producing EVs. However, internally, more than 70% of an EV’s parts may be different from comparable size gas-powered vehicles. 

With just one moving part — the motor — an electric vehicle should be simpler and less expensive to produce. Yet, the key component to EVs, the lithium-ion battery, requires precious natural resources to manufacture and remains one of the most complex pieces of engineering of any vehicle on the road. As advancements in battery technology take place, and batteries become less expensive to produce, manufacturers may find it easier to scale up production. 

Right now, conventional auto makers are sharing some aspects of their assembly line, such as the paint and body shops for ICE vehicles. Fortunately, since EVs have fewer components, manufacturers who shift to EV cars will free up space in their facilities, enabling them to scale production more easily. As demand for EVs grows, it will be important for manufacturers to keep pace. 

Getting Power From EV Charging Stations

You probably already know that EVs get their power for their batteries from the electric grid through EV charging stations — either in the home, in public places or on privately owned commercial property. Electricity is already a cleaner form of fuel than gas, since there are no carbon emissions from running an electric engine. 

However, EVs can be made even cleaner by using solar power as a fuel source. Right now, that power still goes through the electric grid and is then fed into EV charging stations and into the vehicles. Shifting to solar can dramatically reduce the cost-of-ownership for EV owners and those who own and operate EV charging stations. 

Sophisticated Systems Changing the Way We Drive

Just as powering and maintaining an EV is very different from your experience with ICE vehicles, driving an EV is also like nothing you’ve ever felt before. The smooth acceleration, regenerative braking that slows the vehicle as soon as you take your foot off the accelerator, and the lighter weight that can contribute to faster acceleration deliver a luxury experience in vehicles that may cost less than traditional luxury cars. 

Most EVs boast a range of up to 250 miles on a single charge, making them comparable to many ICE vehicles on the road today. And if your battery is low, apps can locate convenient EV charging stations along your route. With so many advantages to EVs, the only question left should be: Which make and model should you purchase? 

Dawn Allcot is a full-time freelance writer and content marketing specialist who has written about sustainability and solar for 20-plus years. She frequently covers Tesla and Elon Musk for GoBankingRates.


International Energy Agency (IEA) – Global EV Outlook 2020

SaveOnEnergy – How Does An Electric Motor Work? 

Nature – Electric Cars and Batteries: How Will the World Produce Enough? 

Advanced Vehicle Testing Activity – How Do Gasoline and Electric Vehicles Compare

Automotive Manufacturing Solutions (AMS) – The Challenges of a Transition From ICE to EV Production for Automotive Manufacturering Solutions (AMS) – The challenges of a transition from ICE to EV production for automotive manufacturers and the implications for assembly plants

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