How do electric cars work?
Unlike petrol or diesel cars, which run off a traditional internal combustion engine (or ICE), electric cars are powered by an electrically charged battery pack. This works to power the motor and turn the wheels. Instead of being reliant on common methods of fuel, such as petrol and diesel, these vehicles depend on electricity for power.
Electric car owners can supply power via a wall socket, like those used for other electrical appliances, or from a dedicated charging unit. They just plug the car’s charge port to a source of electricity and the battery receives power that is stored inside the vehicle.
What are Hybrids?
A variant on the electric car is the hybrid, which uses a combination of electricity and liquid fuels.
Hybrid vehicles use more than one power source. A hybrid petrol car runs on an electric motor and a petrol engine, while a hybrid diesel car is powered by an electric motor and a diesel engine. There are two different types of hybrids on the road – conventional hybrids and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). Conventional hybrids run electrically, providing the car is travelling at a low speed. When the driver accelerates further, the engine runs off both electricity and either petrol or diesel.
Know your vehicle types
Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV): A car that runs purely on electric power, stored in an on-board battery that is charged from mains electricity (typically at a dedicated chargepoint).
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV): A car with a combination of a traditional internal combustion engine and a rechargeable battery, allowing for either pure electric-powered driving or extended range from a combination of the petrol engine and electric motor.
Electric vehicle (EV): Can be used as a catch-all term for BEVs, PHEVs etc.
Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV): A 100% fossil fueled hybrid car. The most common is the Toyota Prius. A small battery is charged through regenerative braking that generates some electric power in tandem to a combustion engine, but all energy originates from petrol.
The future of the electric car industry
As electric cars drop in price and increase their range, they’re set to become an increasingly common sight on UK roads. The government plans to ban sales of all diesel and petrol cars and vans by 2035, pushing more drivers towards buying electrically powered vehicles. Yet there’s a possibility that the country’s transition to EVs may happen even sooner, as financial subsidies and falling costs continue to sway the public.
Household brands such as BMW, Volkswagen, Ford and Volvo have made pledges to become greener in the coming years, by making more plug-in hybrids or placing billion-pound investments in the production of fully-electric vehicles. These models are set to have improved performance – more torque and better handling – which will appeal to a wider market. Major supermarket chains such as Lidl and Sainsbury’s now often have outdoor charging points for electric vehicles.
Batteries that can hold more charge and allow longer-distance travel are being manufactured more frequently thanks to global investment. As batteries become cheaper, EVs are expected to fall in price, too. As electric cars are comparatively lightweight, future models are potentially set to be faster than conventional diesel or petrol models.
The growing presence of electric vehicles is undeniable, but they still only make up around 1.6% of the one billion vehicles being driven today.
What’s cleaner, petrol or diesel?
Diesel cars, on average, produce a lot more NOx than petrol cars. NOx (oxides of nitrogen), is comprised of NO (Nitrogen Oxide) and NO2 (Nitrogen Dioxide). NOx is harmful to the environment, and so petrol cars are seen as the cleaner option.
Currently, the most popular vehicle to purchase is the petrol car using a personal contract purchase (PCP). PCP is similar to hire purchase in that customers make monthly payments – usually after making an initial deposit – typically over two or three years. Low rates have meant that borrowing money to fund a car purchase has in general become cheaper and the overall cost savings available from buying a vehicle with an upfront cash payment have shrunk.