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What is an Electric Vehicle? - History, Architecture, Features

What is an Electric Vehicle? - History, Architecture, Features

Modern life cannot function without transportation, but the combustion engine is rapidly aging. Vehicles powered by gasoline or diesel are observing a decline, and are getting replaced by fully electric vehicles. The coming decade is the decade of Electric Vehicles, who knows you will be the owner of one in the upcoming years. So get to know what it is beforehand!

Did You Know?

  • Indian Industry is observing a wave of Electric Vehicles. We are the 5th largest Automobile Industry in the world and are ready to conquer more by 2030.
  • India is ranked 13th among the 20 most polluted cities in the world. To change this, we must make use of electric vehicles
  • Electric vehicles are environmentally friendly. They don’t release harmful gasses or smoke into the air, which helps to reduce pollution and fight global warming.

Click here to watch the Introduction video of the Electric Vehicle Course and learn more about electric vehicles!

What is an Electric Vehicle?

An electric vehicle (EV) is a car that runs entirely or partially on electricity instead of gasoline. The electricity is stored in reusable batteries and used to power an electric motor that turns the wheels.

Electric vehicles are categorized as follows:

  • Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV): It runs entirely on electricity with no gas engine. They can travel distances ranging from 80 to over 300 miles on a single charge. 
  • Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV): It has both electric and gas components. It can drive 20–55 miles on electricity before switching to gas.
  • Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV): It uses hydrogen fuel cells to produce electricity. It has a 300–400 mile range and fast 5-minute refuel times.

Compared to gas-powered cars, EVs are more efficient. They have lower operating costs and produce no tailpipe emissions, making them better for the environment.

Is the Automotive Future Electric?

In a nutshell, sure. In addition to revolutionizing the vehicle business, mainstream EVs will contribute to global decarbonization. Basically, there isn’t another way to decarbonize passenger transportation. Given that EV charging ranges and speeds are increasing and green hydrogen is still too costly for the typical private BEV owner, hydrogen is unlikely to have a major impact on vehicle mobility for passengers. Alternatives are limited in different ways: biofuels are scarce and expensive, while synthetic fuels emit pollution.

A Brief History of Electric Vehicles

Electric cars have a century-long history of innovation, leading to the latest EVs seen on the road. Here are some key events in the evolution of EVs:

  • 1832–1839: Inventors in Hungary, the Netherlands, and the US built some of the first small-scale electric carriages. 
  • 1835: Robert Anderson invented the first crude electric carriage displayed at a public event.
  • 1890s: Electric cars gained some popularity in the UK and US as battery technology improved.
  • 1912: There were over 30,000 EVs in the US, as the electric starter made gas cars easier to use.  
  • 1990s: California passed zero-emission vehicle mandates to address pollution. Automakers started seriously re-exploring EVs.
  • 2008: The Tesla Roadster became the first highway-legal serial-production all-electric car to use lithium-ion batteries.
  • 2021: There were over 10 million EVs on the road globally as prices dropped and ranges improved.

In summary, EVs have come full circle from early innovation to a resurgence due to technology improvements and environmental awareness.

Electric Vehicle Design EPGC IITR iHUB

So, What was the first electric vehicle, and how did it look?

William Morrison, a chemist from Des Moines, Iowa, created the first “practical” electric vehicle in the US. Morrison’s car was a traditional horse-drawn Surrey carriage that was popular in America in the 19th century and had been modified to accommodate a battery. With a top speed of 32 km/h (20 mph), Morrison’s electric carriage could accommodate a maximum of 12 passengers.

So, what did it look like??

What was the first electric vehicle

Like this? Umm.. probably not!

This is what the First Ever Electric Vehicle looked like.. Astonishing, right?

Electric Vehicle - What was the first electric vehicle, and how did it look

Although his car was barely not more than an electrified wagon, it stimulated people’s interest in electric cars.

What is the Range of EVs?

Range of an electric vehicle is nothing but the distance a vehicle can travel in one full charge. It is a crucial factor for buyers to consider while buying a new EV. This is an important factor to consider as EV is a new technology and the infrastructure surrounding it is still developing, especially in a country like India.

There are various factors that can affect the range of an EV. Few examples are:

  1. Battery capacity
  2. Weight of vehicle
  3. Type of vehicle, ex. car, truck
  4. Aerodynamics of vehicle
  5. Weather conditions
  6. Terrain of driving
  7. Driving behaviors

Types of Electric Vehicles

There are 3 main types of Electric Vehicles designed for different driving needs:

  1. Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs)

BEVs run 100% on electricity stored in onboard batteries, powering the electric motors and drivetrain. Most BEVs today have a range of 150–300 miles per charge. They produce no tailpipe emissions, are cheap to operate, and require little maintenance.  

Popular BEV Models: Tesla Model 3, Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Bolt

  1. Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) 

PHEVs have both electric motors and gasoline engines. They can drive approx. 10–50 miles purely on electric power before the gas engine kicks in. This provides emission-free commuting while eliminating range anxiety on longer trips.

Popular PHEV Models: Toyota Prius Prime, Hyundai Ioniq, Kia Niro PHEV

Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) 
  1. Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs)

FCEVs use hydrogen fuel cells instead of large batteries to power the electric motors. Hydrogen from the tank mixes with oxygen to produce electricity. FCEVs can be refueled in 5 minutes and have a 300+-mile range. However, hydrogen infrastructure is still in its early stages.  

Popular FCEV Model: Toyota Mirai

In a nutshell, BEVs are 100% electric, PHEVs are gas-electric hybrids, and FCEVs run on hydrogen-based electricity.

Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs)

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Working Principles of Different Electrical Vehicles (EV)

We will be discussing the principles on which every EV moves, let’s begin with:

1. Working Principles of BEV

For the electric motor, power is converted from the DC battery to AC.

The accelerator pedal sends a signal to the controller, which changes the frequency of the AC power from the inverter to the motor to adjust the vehicle’s speed.

The motor is coupled to and rotates the wheels through a cog.

When the brakes are applied or the electric vehicle is decelerating, the motor transforms into an alternator and generates power, which is then returned to the battery.

2. Working Principles of HEV

It has a fuel tank similar to a regular car that supplies gas to the engine.

A set of batteries powering an electric motor is also present.

The transmission can be turned by both the engine and the electric motor at the same time.

3. Working Principles of PHEV

PHEVs typically start in electric-only mode and continue to run on electricity until their battery pack runs out. At highway cruising speed, which is typically greater than 60 or 70 miles per hour, some models switch to hybrid mode. When the battery is completely depleted, the engine takes over and the car starts to function like a regular, non-plug-in hybrid.

Check out our blog on working of electric vehicle for more information.

Main Components of an Electric Vehicle

The most important EV Components include:

  1. Battery: Stores electricity to power the motors  
  2. Electric Motor: Provides rotational force to turn the wheels   
  3. Controller: Manages power from the battery to the electric motors  
  4. Onboard Charger: Converts AC electricity to DC to recharge the battery while plugged in   
  5. Regenerative Braking: Recaptures energy when decelerating to partially recharge the battery
Components of an Electric Vehicle

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How Does an Electric Vehicle Work?

How Does an Electric Vehicle Work

An EV works by converting electricity from batteries into mechanical power to propel the wheels:

  1. Electricity stored in the traction battery pack is delivered to the electric motor.
  2. The motor converts this electrical energy into rotational mechanical energy.
  3. This mechanical power gets transferred to the wheels via the transmission/gearbox, propelling the EV forward.
  4. The accelerator pedal signals the controller to send more or less power to the motor.
  5. Kinetic braking energy gets partially recaptured into the battery when decelerating.

The basic premise is electricity powers motors instead of gasoline combusting inside engines. This makes EVs faster, quieter, cleaner, and cheaper to operate per mile.

Supporting components like cooling systems, DC/DC converters, charge ports, transmissions, and electronics also play key roles in power management and delivery.

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How Do You Charge an Electric Vehicle?

There are two main ways to charge an EV:

  1. Level 1: Provides 2–5 miles of range per hour when plugged into a standard 120V residential outlet  
  2. Level 2: Provides 10–20 miles per charging hour through a special 240V outlet (like for an electric dryer)

Public DC fast charging stations can provide 60–200 miles of range in 15–30 minutes. But Level 1 and Level 2 charging at home or work are the most convenient ways to ensure you leave each day with a “full tank.”

Charging infrastructure and technologies continue to improve to make EVs more practical for more people.

What is Fast Charging for Electric Vehicles

  • Fast charging uses direct current (DC) instead of alternating current (AC) from normal chargers.
  • DC fast charging stations convert AC to DC to deliver very high electric current, typically 400-900 volts.
  • This DC power is delivered directly to the EV battery system via charging equipment optimized for high voltages.
  • Fast charging rate is over 100kW, much higher than slower Level 2 AC charging.
  • In 30 minutes or less, an EV battery can recharge to 80% capacity or more with fast charging.
  • High rates rapidly replenish the battery compared to normal charging.
  • Repeated fast charging can degrade EV batteries faster over the life of lithium ion batteries.
  • Fast charging is ideal for occasional long trips.
  • Slow, daily charging is better for battery longevity.

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What are the Benefits of Electric Vehicles?

Drive an EV, and you’ll quickly notice these perks:

  1. Lower Operating Costs: Electricity is cheaper than gas, and EVs have fewer parts needing maintenance.
  2. Environmental Benefits: It produces zero emissions while driving, resulting in cleaner air.  
  3. Strong Performance: Instant torque allows for fast acceleration and a sporty driving feel.   
  4. Advanced Technology: EVs are packed with high-tech features and futuristic styling inside and out.  
  5. Quiet Operation: Without loud engines, EVs provide smooth, silent driving.
  6. Convenience: Never visit gas stations again! Just plug in at home to fill up.

In total, EVs provide an eco-friendly, exciting, and easy way to get around.

What are the Drawbacks of Electric Vehicles

EVs continue to improve, but downsides include:

  1. Range Limitations: While ranges grow annually, EVs may still experience some range anxiety.
  2. Recharge Time: Fully recharging EV batteries takes more time than a 5-minute gas station fill up. 
  3. Higher Upfront Cost: EVs have a higher purchase price than comparable gas cars, although cost parity is coming.
  4. Sparse Infrastructure: EV Charging station networks are expanding but may still cause inconvenience on long trips. 

However, advancing battery tech along with public and private charging investments may eliminate these issues shortly.

Check out our blog on the advantages & disadvantages of Electric vehicles!

What are the Challenges to Adopting Electric Vehicles?

Electric cars tend to cost more money to buy upfront compared to similar gasoline-powered cars. This is because the batteries needed to power electric cars are expensive to manufacture. They require rare materials and have to hold a lot of energy to allow people to drive reasonable distances between charges.  

It also takes quite a bit longer to recharge an electric car’s battery versus filling up a gas tank at the pump. Filling up a gasoline car only takes 2–5 minutes. But recharging an electric car battery can take anywhere from 4 hours to over 6 hours on typical chargers. Some new, faster “rapid charging” systems can charge faster, but most daily charging still requires significant time.

Explore the top Electric Vehicles in the market through the List of Electric Vehicles Blog.

Conclusion

With many types to choose from, zero emissions, lower operating costs, high performance, and advanced features, electric cars represent the future of the automotive industry. As charging networks expand and technology improves, EVs will continue to gain traction with every model year. Soon, nearly every driveway might be occupied by an emission-free, plug-in electric car.

If you have any questions regarding the topic, check out our Intellipaat community page.

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