Electric Car Technology

The difference between an electric vehicle and a conventional, internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle is the replacement of the ICE with an electric drive train.

Three basic components replace their three counterparts in ICE vehicles. So the engine is replace by a motor, the fuel tank is replaced by electrical energy storage (usually chemical, such as batteries), and the mechatronic controls (throttle, distributor, etc.) of the engine are replaced by a computerized controller for the motor.

These three components (motor, controller, energy storage) are the backbone of an electric vehicle.

An EV May Not Be What You Think It Is

Most people are under the impression that an electric vehicle is only a battery electric vehicle like the Nissan Leaf or General Motors EV1. Any vehicle using an electric motor to power its drive train is an EV, however.

So an electric vehicle that, instead of batteries, uses a hydrogen fuel cell is still an EV. Same with a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) that might use a gasoline engine to provide electricity for the motor.

Any vehicle who's drive train is primarily operated by electricity (whatever it's source or storage medium) is an electric vehicle.

How EV Technology Operates

In a typical electric vehicle, energy is sent from the storage medium (batteries, fuel cell, etc.) to the controller. The controller decides how much electricity will pass through to the motor, thus controlling the motor's speed and safety.

Like any typical vehicle, the motor might turn the shaft of a transmission that uses gearing to change the speed of a drive shaft or axle to, in turn, spin the wheels of the car and propel it forward.

Some vehicles used direct-drive with the motors mounted directly on the drive shaft or even the wheels themselves, relying entirely on the controller and the capabilities of the motors to produce enough torque and spin to propel the vehicle.

The Future of EV Technology

As the technology behind electric vehicles continues to grow and evolve, the cars themselves will change to match.

Better energy storage mediums, stronger motors, less use of hard-to-find materials, and other technical changes are powering the future of electric vehicles.

While combustion engines may never completely go away, they are likely to be replaced in much of the transportation and automotive sectors by electrics. It's more a question of time rather than if.

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