What is an electric car?

Learn why electric cars are unique and why they are growing in popularity.

Posted by Guest Blogger on July 19, 2013

You may be wondering, “What exactly is an electric car?” An electric car is a vehicle or an automobile that is driven by one or more motors powered by electricity, electrical energy stored in batteries or another energy storage device. Gasoline engines and other internal combustion engines store energy in the form of a fuel, whereas electric vehicles store energy in a battery device that is recharged.

The rechargeable battery pack can be plugged into one of three power sources: a standard household outlet, an upgraded home charging system or a quick-charge station provided by a city or public utility. Battery life varies depending upon the manufacturer, size of the battery, electronic set up, owner usage and battery chemistry. Overall, a battery typically lasts about five years.

Electric cars are particularly unique compared to gas cars because they have improved batteries and they do not require gear changes as some gas cars do. Electric cars were actually popular in the late 19th century and early 20th century due to their ease of operation and their ability to start easily. The decline of electric cars followed the mass production of cheaper gas vehicles and the advancement of technology of the internal combustion engine. In the 1970s and 1980s, the energy crisis brought a short-lived interest in electric cars; however those cars did not reach mass marketing as electric cars have today. In the 21st century, the production of electric cars is experiencing a renaissance due to advances in battery and power management technologies, as well as concerns about increasingly volatile oil prices.

As of December 2012, approximately 27,000 electric cars have been sold in the U.S. since 2008. As of June 2013, the production of electric passenger cars (that are highway capable) is limited to approximately 20 models currently being mass produced in the world.

You also may be wondering, “How are electric cars charged?” Electric cars can be charged on a 120-volt, 15-amp circuit or high output chargers can be used. A typical electric car has ranges varying from 60 miles per charge to 100 miles per charge. The range depends on the number and types of batteries used. In addition, Wright-Hennepin offers an Off-Peak rate for charging electric cars. For more information, call a representative at (763) 477-3664.

Another common question is, “What is the comparison between vehicles that run on gas and electric cars that run on electricity?” As an example, let’s compare the Chevy Volt, an electric vehicle, to the average price of a regular gas vehicle.

According to fueleconomy.gov, a Chevy Volt’s cost to drive 25 miles is $1.05, while a typical gas vehicle will cost about $2.57 for 25 miles. The conversion factor used is 1 gallon of gasoline = 33.7 kWh. Overall, an electric vehicle’s price is around $30,000 to $40,000. A Chevy Volt’s price is around $39,000. A comparable all gas car, the Chevy Malibu, is around $30,000. Overall, the price difference is not that drastic. It will be interesting to see if electric cars continue to grow in popularity in the future!

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