Electric Vehicles – Nuts and Bolts

One of the biggest advantages of electric cars is that there are fewer of those nuts and bolts. Also no oil, coolants, belts, transmissions et al. The fewer moving parts in the drive train, the longer it will last, other things being equal. Although electric cars are now more costly on the front end, the much lower maintenance and fuel cost result in lower cost over the long run.

The cost to own and operate a vehicle is the ultimate determinant for a lot of folks, but after that are a few other things about electric cars, one being fueling and the storage of the fuel. We’re talking about charging batteries. The unit of energy for electric cars is kiloWatt-hour (kWhr.) A fully charged battery pack will hold a certain number of kWhrs, (a Chevy Bolt battery pack will hold 60 kWhr) the more the battery pack will hold, the farther you can travel, just like a bigger fuel tank gets you farther.

How efficient the electric propulsion is in miles per kwhr is important A small to medium electric sedan can be expected to get about four miles per kWhr with all the caveats which influence an internal combustion engine (ICE.) Generally, the faster you drive, the poorer is your mileage. Colder weather and strong headwinds affect electric and ICE-powered cars alike. The United States EPA has made it easier to compare the efficiency of gas and electric cars. For electric vehicles, the EPA provides a number, miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe) which allows a direct fuel efficiency comparison. For mid-sized electric sedans, the mileage is greater than100+ MPGe.

With a mileage that is three to four times better for an electric vehicle over an ICE, it will cost you one-third to one-quarter of the cost of buying gasoline for a given distance. One of the few drawbacks of electric cars is charging time, which varies depending on the charging technology.
The simplest way to charge an electric car is to plug it into a wall outlet. This will charge slowly because 110-volt outlets run at a minimal current. To fully charge an average electric vehicle will take a day or more at a wall outlet. For topping off a battery or for short errands around town this is sufficient. For longer trips, it is better to install a 220-watt charge station. This is referred to as a level II charger. These will fully charge a battery overnight.

If you’re ready for that two-week vacation with the family you will need to find level III chargers, just like you need to find gas stations along the way. Now it gets a little messier. Different vehicles have different connector plugs so you have to be sure you find the right kind of charger station. A small to mid-sized electric sedan can fully recharge in about one half an hour. A road trip in an electric vehicle will necessitate stopping every three to four hours for one half an hour. Enough time to stretch your legs, go to the restroom and get a bag of chips and a cold drink. As battery technology continues to improve, the distance you can go will increase, and the charging time decrease. Bon Voyage.

Dr. Bob Allen is Emeritus Professor of Chemistry, Arkansas Tech University.

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