Fully Electric

Fully Electric Cars

Tesla Model X Electric SUV

The Ultimate Information Guide to Understand Fully Electric Cars

Electric cars have been around since the inception of the automobile. As our planet faces increasing environmental challenges, fully electric vehicles have seen a spike in popularity because they are more environmentally friendly, convert more of their energy into actual power and require less maintenance than alternative internal combustion vehicles. Below, we explore what this new technology is, the history of it, how it works, as well as the pros-and-cons.

What Are Electric Cars?


Electric Car Definition

Electric cars (sometimes referred to as "EV" short for Electric Vehicle) are those vehicles that are powered by an electric motor drawing current from a rechargeable battery, fuel cell, or other portable source of electrical current. While the type of fuel source may change (e.g. battery, fuel cell) the engines are always an electric motor.


Electric Cars Explained

The basic concept behind an electric vehicle (EV) is straightforward: Direct-Current (DC) electricity powers a large electric motor, which then propels the vehicle. Fully electric cars are propelled exclusively by an electric motor, as opposed to an internal combustion motor using gasoline or a hybrid car - which runs on a mixture of gasoline and battery power to fuel the combustion engine and electric motor respectively.

The main advantage of an EV is fuel economy. Hybrid electric vehicles average the equivalent of around 70-100 miles (or 100 MPG). Fully electric vehicles have a driving range that averages between 60 to 120 miles on a full charge (200 to 300 miles for some models). It is important to note that just like smartphones, fully electric EVs have to be recharged when they run out of battery power.

Tesla Model X Electric SUV
2016 Tesla Model X

Electric Car History

First production electric car built by English inventor Thomas Parker in the late 1800s

Fully electric cars have undergone a surge in popularity in recent years due to environmental concerns, but electric vehicles were already being made in the late 1800s. The vehicles remained popular until the early 20th century, which is when Henry Ford’s mass-produced Model T was introduced in 1908. The Model T was the first mass-produced internal-combustion-engine vehicles, and sold for half the price of an electric car. After a couple of decades of competition, the internal combustion engine won, mainly because of the limitations of battery technologies and eager Americans wanting to explore the newly built roads connecting cities.

Cheap, abundant gasoline and continued improvements to the internal combustion engine caused public interest in electric vehicles to go into a sort of dark age with minimal advancements in the technology for several decades. Then came the the oil energy crisis of the 1970s and 1980s, which caused the U.S. Congress to pass the Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Research, Development, and Demonstration Act of 1976, authorizing the U.S. Energy Department to support research and development in electric and hybrid vehicles. While this event sparked public awareness and research efforts, the vehicles developed by automakers during this time never made it into mass production. This is due to the fact that many of these vehicles had several drawbacks such as limited performance (usually topping at speeds of 45 miles per hour) and severely restricted range limitations (typical range was limited to 40 miles before needing to be recharged).

Frist production electric car, called the Roadster by Tesla Motors

It wasn’t until around the start of the 21st century (circa 2001) that the true revival of the electric vehicle caught on. This shift in public acceptance of electric vehicles is often attributed to the introduction of the Toyota Prius, which was first released in Japan in 1997 (2000 worldwide release) and became the world’s first mass-produced hybrid electric vehicle. Subsequent to the Prius, a (previously) small Silicon Valley startup called Tesla Motors, introduced a fully electric luxury electric sports car in 2008 called the Tesla Roadster, that could go more than 200 miles on a single charge. These two events, along with the mass acceptance by the public, has since spurred almost all big automakers to accelerate work on their own electric vehicles.

Consumers today have more choices than ever before when it comes to buying an electric vehicle. With virtually every giant automaker on the planet now selling an electric vehicle, consumers have options for every budget from the economical Leaf by Nissan, to the extreme FFZERO1 one-seater hypercar by Chinese Electric car manufacturer Faraday Future.

How Do Electric Cars Work?

In an electric vehicle, the motor connects to the wheels through a drivetrain similar to the transmission in an ordinary internal combustion vehicle. The only two significantly different components include an electric motor and a controller to regulate the speed the vehicle will move at. The most common electric vehicle power source is the rechargeable lithium ion battery, which acts as a "gas tank" and supplies the electric motor with the energy necessary to move the vehicle.

How do electric cars work diagram?
The following technologies are core components to electric cars:

  1. Electric Motor - All electric cars motors are powered by the same thing (stored electricity) and a motor on an electric car functions in the same basic way as the one that makes a fan turn. There are many different types of electric car motors, with only a few making up the majority of the motors being used in electric cars. Some electric car motors use AC current (like a wall outlet), while others are powered by DC current (true battery power). Additionally, voltage standards may vary for different types of electric vehicles.

  2. Controller - If the battery is the heart of the electric car motor, the controller is the brain as it tells the engine what to do. Electric car controllers function as the connection between the battery and the motor, dictating how much of motor's energy is transmitted to the wheels, preventing the electric motor from burning out. When the driver presses down on the gas pedal, the controller sends the power to the engine to increase the speed. As soon as the driver removes his foot from the acceleration pedal, no further power goes through. The controller on an electric car can be either alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC).

  3. Rechargeable Batteries - The battery is the heart of an electric car. There are several different types of battery packs used in electric vehicles, including Lithium-Ion, Nickel-Metal Hydride, and Lead-Acid. They are typically mounted low down in the car, to keep their substantial weight close to the ground. Recharging batteries can either source power externally (e.g. Charging stations) or through regenerative brakes. Regenerative brakes stop your car from throwing energy away every time you stop, by recycling your car’s generated electricity. The way this works is that the car's electric motor becomes a generator so that when the brakes are engaged, the car slows down as your kinetic energy turns to electricity that recharges the battery.

Electric Car Pros and Cons


  • Emissions - Electric cars produce virtually no CO2 emissions. The caveat here is that unless the vehicles’ stored electricity came from a wind turbine or a solar panel, the vehicle is still producing some form of emissions via electricity generation in a distant power plant somewhere. This caveat will only get less important as electricity generation methods becomes greener.

  • Efficiency - Electric cars are considerably more efficient than gasoline cars. This is because electric motors are simply more efficient than internal combustion engines (about 80 percent), which waste a high proportion of the fuel they burn as useless heat. This increased efficiency translates into reduced dependency on oil (both domestic and foreign) and direct economic savings for EV owners.

  • Performance - Electric cars provide quiet, smooth and strong acceleration. Since electric motors can produce high torque at low speeds, electric cars can accelerate significantly quicker than gasoline cars; which don't produce their peak torque until they’ve reached relatively high speeds. The unique “axle-twisting” power offered by EVs is almost felt by passengers instantaneously. Furthermore, most electric vehicles are designed with aerodynamics and a lower center of mass to reach a near ideal weight distribution.

  • Maintenance - Electric cars require almost none of the maintenance that gasoline powered vehicles do (e.g. oil changes, emissions checks). Even the average life expectancy of an EV battery is expected to be around a decade. The principle driver behind EV’s reduced maintenance is the fact that electric motors have only one moving part - the motor shaft. Conversely, internal combustion engines have hundreds of moving parts creating intense heat and force generated by an unending series of little explosions. Simply ensure that your electric vehicle has a sufficient charge, properly inflated tires, and you are good to go.

  • Economics - Given the considerable efficiency of electric cars compared to internal combustion models, the cost per mile to fuel an EV is approximately one-third to one-quarter the cost of gasoline (on a cost per mile basis). Other benefits include access to carpool lanes, dealership incentives, competitive lease rates, Federal and State Tax Credits and other government incentives. If you were to pair your EV with home-generated solar power, the savings get quite lucrative.


  • Driving Range - Often referred to as “range anxiety,” refers to the fear of running out of juice when you're nowhere near a charging station. Most EV ranges are typically limited to 60 to 120 miles on a full charge, although some models can upwards of 200 miles. While 60 to 120 miles is plenty for local driving and commuting to work, EV owners should still be cognizant of routes beyond predictable local driving. This involved taking steps to ensure that extended travels are either within range, or at least allow for time to recharge.

  • Recharging Time - Fully recharging electric vehicle battery packs can take 4 to 8 hours, and long road trips are not advisable. Even so called "fast charges" which provide up to 80% capacity (50 miles) can take 30 min. Although recharging requires thoughtful planning, most typical drivers will not be burdened by the required charging schedule. A good point is that public DC “Quick Charging Stations” are increasingly becoming more available in higher density regions.

  • Slow Adoption for Public Infrastructure - The electric vehicle market is still very young and public charging stations aren’t exactly located on every other corner like gasoline stations are. The commonality of “range anxiety” will have to be a thing of the past for EVs to become ubiquitous. However, as EV adoption grows, a deeper concern is the strain on existing power grids. Charging an electric car at a designated electric vehicle charging circuit, has been compared as the equivalent of adding one house to the grid. As pointed out above, not all cities are equipped to handle that demand, and the problem will only become more difficult as adoption increases

  • Price Tag - The sticker price on most electric vehicles is usually higher than a comparably sized gasoline-powered car. For those interested in a luxury electric vehicle, both the Tesla Model S and BMW i8 reach into the 6 figure price range. Most EVs qualify for various tax breaks to help reduce the window price and opting to install a home charging station can set you back a few thousand when factoring in installation. Opting for a discounted “Used” EV may not always be available, as the inventory of used EVs has not been well established yet.

  • Lacking Consumer Choice - Presently, there is only a limited choice for consumers to choose from when it comes to buying a fully electric car. Of the limited pool of vehicles to choose from, they range from super economical (Nissan Leaf) to the very pricey and sporty (Tesla Model S, BMW i8). The reason behind this is because there is often a trade off between styling and efficiency. The EV market will eventually reach an equilibrium where you can get a car that’s universally attractive, very efficient, and affordable to the average person.