How does an electric car work?

You’ve probably read about electric cars in the news. There is a lot of interest in them because they create less carbon pollution than traditional petrol or diesel powered cars.

And they’re starting to become to very popular all over the world. In the US, electric car sales in February 2017 were 68% higher than the same time in 2016. While half of Norway’s new-car sales are now hybrids or electrics.

But what exactly is an electric car?

An electric car is a car powered by an electric motor and batteries, rather than a petrol or diesel engine. They look exactly the same as “normal” cars from the outside so you’d never be able to tell. Often the only real clue that you’re in an electric car is that they are silent when you turn them on.

How does the engine work?

But inside the mechanics of the engine are, of course, very different. Under the hood an electric car is made up of an electric motor, the motor’s controller and of course the all important batteries. The controller takes power from the batteries and delivers it to the motor.

The accelerator pedal hooks to a pair of potentiometers (variable resistors), and these potentiometers provide the signal that tells the controller how much power it is supposed to deliver. The controller can deliver zero power (when the car is stopped), full power (when the driver floors the accelerator pedal), or any power level in between. Some cars don’t have a clutch pedal!

Charging the battery

The car’s batteries can be charged at special designated charging points on the street (you can search for them at or from your domestic 13amp power supply at home, the same as your vaccum cleaner or TV.

If you charge with renewable energy (such as wind or solar) your driving can be nearly emissions free.You can read more about innovative energy infrastructures here.

Going for a drive

The distance an electric car can drive on a single charge depends on the size of the batteries and the car they are powering, as well as things like the weather, road conditions and driving style. Family saloon style cars like the Nissan LEAF claim to drive 100 miles on a single charge, while smaller compact cards claim they can go 48 miles. High-end electric cars make claims of 245-mile ranges.

If you have any other questions about electric cars be sure to get in touch.