How Electric Cars Work: A Comprehensive Guide

Electric cars, also generally referred to as electric vehicles (EVs), are automobiles that are propelled by electric motors, instead of a carbon fuel engine. The electric motors are supplied with electricity from batteries. Instead of a petrol engine, an EV has an electric motor, and instead of a fuel tank, it has a battery.

Because electric motors are quieter than carbon fuel engines, EVs are quieter to drive. Driving one for the first time, you might be thrown off by how quiet it is. There is no vrooom when you hit the accelerator pedal!

Hyundai Kona electric car and charging station
Hyundai Kona EV

5 Facts About Electric Cars

  1. Electric cars do not have gearboxes. Unlike petrol and diesel engines which are highly inefficient and require gears to deliver the needed torque to the vehicle’s wheels, electric motors generate enough torque and so do not require a gearbox. Surprise. It is for this reason that EVs can deliver instant acceleration, whereas petrol-powered cars need you to switch through gears from 1 to 4 or 5 to accelerate.
  2. Electric vehicles have low maintenance and running costs. Why? For one, the engine has less moving parts and no combustion. This translates to much less wear and tear in the engine when compared to fossil fuel cars. The lack of a gearbox is part of this equation. What of running costs? Generally, it costs far less to charge up the batteries of an EV than to fill the tank of a fuel-powered car to travel over the same distance.
  3. Electric vehicles cost more than their petrol engine counterparts. While the maintenance and running costs of an EV are low, you will spend a small fortune to acquire one. This is because, generally, EVs are more expensive to buy than carbon fuel cars. Why? The batteries. Batteries are still expensive, and till we find more affordable means of building batteries, this situation will remain that way.
  4. The first electric car was built in 1884, and electric cars were the most popular kind of cars for about 100 years after that. Shocking; right? A Londoner by the name Thomas Parker is on record as having built the first EV. Internal combustion engines (ICEs) were not quite usable back then in 1884 and EVs ruled the roads till the early 20th century when ICEs became technologically advanced enough to power road vehicles.
  5. Tesla is not the only company making electric vehicles: Other auto makers manufacturing and selling EVs include: BYD, GM, Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes, Volvo, Audi, and Hyundai.

History of Electric Cars

  1. Electric cars were invented before fuel engine cars. The first crude electric vehicle that was regarded as an actual car was created by English inventor Robert Anderson in 1828 (some sources say it was around 1832). It was not very efficient, but it worked. Some other early EVs were produced in Hungary and the Netherlands in the same period.
  2. The first practical electric vehicle was produced in 1884, again by another English inventor. This was followed about six years later by another from an American inventor, William Morrison.
  3. Between 1901 and 1912, a third of all cars on US roads were electric. That seems unbelievable in modern times, considering the number of fuel-burning cars now in use.
  4. The average speed of EVs at the time was 14 miles per hour (22.53 kilometres per hour). To put that in perspective, Usain Bolt broke the world record in the 100 m race in 2009 at an average speed of 23.5 miles per hour (37.82 kilometres per hour). He has since broken that record twice.
  5. In 1905, Ferdinand Porsche, creator of the famous Porsche line of cars, created the first hybrid electric vehicle, the Lohnr-Porsche. This car was powered by electricity stored in a battery alongside a gas engine.
  6. By 1935, all the electric vehicles seemed to disappear completely. This was because Ford Motors built a much faster vehicle that ran on crude oil, which was readily available in Texas and was cheap.
  7. Up to 80 percent of battery power is used to power an electric car, compared to as little as 14 percent from fuel engines. This makes the electric vehicle a highly efficient mode of transport.
  8. The fastest EV in the world in 2023 is the Rimac Nevera, which has a top speed of about 256 mph (about 415 kilometres per hour). 
  9. The electric car with the longest driving range in 2023 is the Lucid Air, with a range of 516 miles (about 830 kilometres).

Frequently asked Questions About Electric Cars

Here are some of the questions you have about EVs, along with the answers.

Which companies are making electric vehicles?

Companies already manufacturing EVs include: Tesla, BYD, SAIC / GM / Wuling, Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes, Volvo, Audi, and Hyundai.


Which car company is selling the most electric cars?

In 2022, Tesla is the leading EV company in the world.

Do electric cars charge while driving?

As at this time, electric vehicles are unable to charge while driving. That ability may appear in the future. However, certain types of hybrid electric vehicles are able to charge while driving.

Do electric car have keys?

Most of them do, though it is possible to operate own without a key.

How does an electric car transmission work?

Unlike regular cars with an internal combustion engine, an EV transmits driving power directly from the electric motor to the wheels of the vehicle, without the need for a gearbox. A very few high-performance EVs have a two-speed gearbox. But regular EVs do not have a gearbox at all.

Do electric cars have clutch?

The clutch is needed in a car for the purpose of changing gears. As the average EV does not have a gearbox, the clutch is not needed, so it doesn’t have one.

How fast can electric cars go?

Electric vehicles have been known to have top speeds of between 100 mph (160 kilometres per hour) and 258 mph (415 kilometres per hour).

How far can an electric car go?

It depends. We do have on record EVs that can only cover 60 miles (96 kilometres) on a single charge, at the lower end, and models that can do 516 miles (830 kilometres), at the upper end.

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