Electric Vehicles - FAQ

On the road to emission-free mobility – electrically propelled road vehicles

Many Asian, American, and European car makers are developing cars and trucks with electric drive train components and traction battery systems to help reduce fuel consumption. Meeting mandated fleet fuel economy targets is a strong development force. The growing market for electric vehicles (EVs), hybrid electric vehicles (HEV), and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) will help reduce pollution and greenhouse emissions.

The keys to a successful market penetration of EVs and HEVs is extending lifetimes, improving reliability, and lowering the costs of the vehicle traction battery system. Read more about these standards

What is an electric vehicle(EV)?

An electric vehicle is an automobile powered by an electric motor through the use of rechargeable battery packs instead of the traditional internal combustion engine(ICE).

When was the first EV conceived?

It may come as a surprise to you, but the electric vehicle was invented in the 1830s following the invention of the electric motor in 1835. The electric motor enjoyed some initial success through electric locomotives, cars, and similar pieces of impressive engineering. However, despite their implementation into the everyday machinery, the electric motor was suddenly and completely trumped by the arrival of the relatively powerful combustion engine that we know today. Only recently, in the past two decades, has the intrigue of the electric vehicle again piqued our interest. As mandated by the California Air Resources board the major automobile companies. However, in 2003, after the mandate had ended, Nissan, Honda, Toyota, and GM crushed their EVs due to their relative failure and lack of popularity. In an effort to promote a greener environment, President Obama has passed legislation with incentives to purchase hybrid and electric vehicles. For example during March 2009 President Obama announced $2.4 billion in grants for electric vehicles. He also announced plans for the ownership of one million electric vehicles in the United States by the year 2015.

How does an electric motor differ from an internal combustion engine?

There are several types of electric motors, but the one used in an electric vehicle is the brushless DC motor, also used in CD/DVD players. Essentially a BLDC motor is a synchronous motor that is powered by a DC current. A brush is basically a device that conducts current between a static wire and a rotating shaft. The main advantages BLDC motors have over a brushed one include higher efficiency, reliability, and longer lifetime due to the absence of brush erosion.

Conversely, an internal combustion engine, the kind most of us are familiar with relies on the combustion of fuel for its source of energy. This process directly applies force to the movable parts of the engine, the pistons or turbine blades, ultimately generating mechanical energy. Essentially the ICE relies on the movement of the two-stroke or four-stroke piston engines for its power which has allowed it to the dominate the industry in most mobile applications(automobiles, aircrafts, boats, etc.)

Electric In-Wheel Motor

What are the advantages of an EV?

Energy efficiency: Electric motors, adjusting for some natural variations, convert roughly 75% of the chemical energy from the batteries to propel the wheels ICEs only convert 20% of the potential energy in gasoline.

Environmentally safe: Naturally, with no gasoline, EVs emit no pollutants into the atmosphere. Electricity produced from nuclear, hydro, solar, and wind-powered plants are similarly pollutant-free.

Reduced energy dependence: With all the talk of our dependence on foreign oil and how we might solve that issue, the EV presents a practical and realistic solution to the problem. While offshore drilling may create more problems than it solves, a gradual shift to EVs will certainly mitigate the need for petroleum.

Increased Performance: Electric motors are relatively quiet and have overall smoother operation with stronger acceleration. While much of an the moving parts of an ICE often breaks down and requires maintenance, in the form of routine checkups and the like, an electric vehicle virtually eliminates this problem.

What are some disadvantages of an EV?

Driving range: Most EVs can only travel about 150 miles(on a full charge) before needing to recharge vesus gasoline vehicles which go over 300 miles before needing to refuel. Eventually there will be recharging stations for EVs specifically however for the time being this makes EVs most ideal for short-range daily use.

Recharge time(down time): With the current charging technology, plug-in, fully recharging a battery pack can take anywhere between 4-8 hours, a considerable jump from the five minutes it takes to fill a tank of gasoline.

Battery costs: The reduced maintenance comes at the cost of expensive battery packs which must be replaced several times during the lifespan of an EV.

Bulk & weight: Although an EV is lighter and eliminates the need for the bulky ICE, battery packs are still heavy and take up a substantial amount of space

Quadricycle - Microcar: Quadricycles, more generally known as microcars, offer a low impact personal transport solution for urban areas, in areas where traffic speed can be as low as 3-4 miles per hour, and certainly the potential to attain the 30 mph/48 kph legal limit is limited. Their benefits are:

  • taking up less road space, both on the road and when parked
  • pedestrian friendly
  • economical and environmentally friendly
  • virtually 100 per cent recyclable
  • having a light footprint on the road so causing less road damage.

Microcars is a real solution to urban personal transport, even local suburban and rural personal transport.

Manufacturers of these vehicles include Microcar, Aixam, Ligier and Reva; their volumes have been low, and their success has been qualified by special license arrangements and some dispensation from Type Approval regulations that apply to larger vehicles. They must fall within limited weight limits, and have power and speed restrictions imposed at the point of manufacture.

These quadricycles are smaller, lighter and more fuel efficient than any conventional vehicle. They have limited top speeds – and have lightweight polycarbonate bodies that absorb pedestrian impact. They can come with electric motive power as an option, so transferring the pollution created by their motive power to a controllable centralised point at the power stations.

Quadricycles are not "cars". A small point but one to understand if you are considering the purchase of an electric vehicle.

Why should I invest in an EV?

It is easy to sit at home and point out all the problems with the world, and although global warming and the health of our environment may not be our most glaring concern at the moment, it is undoubtedly a significant one that will continue to grow until the damage is irreversible. Not only will the reduced emissions from EVs alleviate some of stress put on our atmosphere, it will ultimately improve our own health. With less pollutants and greenhouse gases in the air we will be able to shift our focus towards other issues. Furthermore, an EV can save the average household thousands of dollars every year by eliminating trips to the gas station and autoshop. An EV, in a sense, embodies the pinnacle of human ingenuity: A powerful, yet mindful piece of machinery that is both sophisticated and affordable for the masses.

If there are other questions you wish to see answered here, contact us at info@ulysses.co.nz with your question.

Toyota RAV4-EV

Under the hood of the Toyota RAV4-EV. Hey, where's the dipstick? Oh, that's right there's no spark plugs, oil, fan belts, fuel injectors, pistons, rings, oil filter, radiator, coolant, air filter . . . well you get the picture. The motor controller is under the big silver cover and the motor is below that. The NiMH battery pack is midship under the car. Those are three major components of an EV. Nice and simple with little to go wrong.

More information available at EV Riders web site: http://www.4evriders.org/

EV World: http://www.evworld.com/

Electric Vehicles Photos: http://evworld.com/photos.cfm

Plug In America: http://www.pluginamerica.org/

Electric Vehicles Tracker: http://www.pluginamerica.org/plug-in-vehicle-tracker.html