Despite how it seems, electric vehicles are nothing new! In fact some of the earliest cars from the 1890s were powered by electric batteries. But it wasn’t until the last decade that electric cars really started to become popular as more people drive them, motivated by concerns about rising pollution, volatile gas prices, and a desire for a smoother ride.
Currently, dozens of electric vehicle options exist and more EV models are hitting the market every day now that every major vehicle manufacturer has an EV model in the works.
Types of Electric Vehicles
Just as there are a variety of technologies available in internal combustion engine (or ICE) vehicles, electric vehicles have different features that can accommodate the various needs of different drivers. A major feature of EVs is that you can plug them in to charge from an electric power source. This distinguishes them from hybrid electric vehicles, which supplement an internal combustion engine with battery power but cannot be plugged in. EVs measure fuel efficiency through kilowatt-hours (kWh) per 100 miles. Kilowatt-hours are measures of electrical energy, and EV users generally pay less per mile than the drivers of gas-powered vehicles.
There are three basic types of EVs: hybrids (HEV), plug-in hybrids (PHEV), and battery-electric vehicles (BEV). BEVs are also known as all-electric vehicles (AEV).
A hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) is a combination of an electric motor and a traditional internal combustion engine but does not plug in to an electric outlet. The primary source of power is gasoline, with the electric motor supplementing to add fuel efficiency. These vehicles are not a focus of Drive Electric Colorado and are not included in any of the current tax credits and incentives. Example: Toyota Prius.
A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) is a combination of an electric motor and a traditional internal combustion engine, and the electric motor is the primary source of power. If the battery range is depleted, the ICE will kick in, so you can get to your destination to charge your battery for your next trip. Some people prefer PHEVs because of this “back up” option that effectively negates range anxiety. PHEVs plug into an electric outlet to get charged, and are included in most tax credits and incentives. Examples: Chevy Volt, Toyota Prius Prime, Mitsubishi Outlander
A battery electric vehicle (BEV) runs on electric motors that get power from a large battery that is charged by plugging the vehicle into a power source like a wall outlet in your garage, or a public charger. BEVs do not use an internal combustion engine at all. Examples: Nissan LEAF, Chevy Bolt, all Tesla vehicles.
In addition to charging from the electrical grid, both PHEVs and BEVs are charged in part by regenerative braking, which generates electricity by capturing the energy that is lost when braking in ICE vehicles. Curious about how regenerative braking works? Scroll below for a more detailed explanation!
The right vehicle for you will depend on your driving habits and needs.
HOW DO ELECTRIC VEHICLES WORK?
Benefits of Electric Vehicles
- Charge overnight at home – leave home every day with a full charge, no more stopping at gas stations
- Lower maintenance costs because there are fewer parts to service, no oil or other fluid or belt changes
- Electricity is less expensive than gas
- No tailpipe means no harmful emissions when you drive
- Reduced exposure to benzene and other volatile organic compounds at gas stations and in your home
- Instant Peak Torque: Maximum power when you step on the pedal
- Regenerative braking
- More responsive driving
- Agile, quiet ride
Driving Electric in Colorado
Preparing to drive in the winter months is important here in Colorado. Here’s what to expect and some tips for driving electric vehicles in the winter.
Extreme cold impacts range
- Passenger heating requires more energy and therefore drains the batteries – sometimes up to 50%!
- Cold batteries have a resistance to charging and do not hold a charge as well
Technology is improving
- Battery heaters pre-condition your batteries to more efficiently accept and maintain a charge
- Your EV has software that can schedule charging completion for the time of your departure to warm up the batteries right before you drive
Tips for successful EV winter driving!
- Eco-mode helps with battery conservation
- Use your seat and steering wheel heaters. Keeping the HVAC off will significantly help conserve the battery.
Driving Qualities of EVs - Is it different from what you're used to?
Does driving an EV really feel all that different from what you are used to with your gas or diesel vehicle? Read over the driving qualities of EVs below to get an idea of what to expect, then go try one for yourself! You deserve the clean experience.
- EVs have what’s called “instant peak torque” – or maximum speed available immediately. This is because fossil-fueled vehicles operate at about 30 percent efficiency, and about 70 percent of the energy is eaten by heat, sound, friction and pollutants that are destroying our atmosphere. A vehicle powered by an electric motor can operate at about 90 percent efficiency, according to Fuel Economy’s Vehicle Energy Efficiency report, because of instant power through torque and regenerative braking (Vehicle Energy Efficiency, n.d.)*. (Check out this video for a techie description of why this is a great feature of EVs.)
- Electric vehicles use “regenerative braking” to slow and stop the car. Moving vehicles have a lot of kinetic energy, and when brakes are applied to slow a vehicle, all of that kinetic energy has to go somewhere. On fossil-fueled vehicles brakes are solely friction based and the kinetic energy of the vehicle is wasted as heat when a car is decelerated. All of that energy is simply lost to the environment as waste heat. Regenerative braking (or regen) uses an electric vehicle’s motor as a generator to convert much of the kinetic energy lost when decelerating back into stored energy in the vehicle’s battery. Then, the next time the car accelerates, it uses much of the energy previously stored from regenerative braking instead of tapping further into its own energy reserves. Regenerative braking will feel different than what you’re used to, in fact, you may find you rely much less on the brake pedal. Many EVs have the capability to control the level of regen when you drive to a point that you are comfortable with.
- Dual motor all-wheel drive (AWD) options with advanced traction control are available in many vehicle models. The term “dual Motor” refers to the vehicle having two electric motors – usually one over each axle – to provide power from the battery to the wheels to move the vehicle forward.
- Many electric vehicles – especially those purpose built to be electric (not modified from previous gasoline cars models) have the battery pack at bottom of the vehicle. This increases rigidity of the frame which increases safety by making it difficult to roll the vehicle and providing a solid base. It also centralizes the weight of the vehicle which makes for better handling.
- Electric vehicles are very quiet because battery power and electric motors do not have the noise making exhaust systems like internal combustion engines do. In fact, electric cars are so quiet that auto manufacturers are required to add artificial motor sounds to electric cars when traveling at low speeds to alert pedestrians. In many cases you can choose the sound that you want your car to make!
*Fueleconomy.gov. n.d. Vehicle Energy Efficiency. [online] Available at: <https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/pdfs/ElectricVehicleEfficiency.pdf> [Accessed 8 February 2021].