The Beginner’s Guide To Electric Vehicles
If you were introduced to driving in a petrol or diesel car, electric cars may seem like they’re a whole world apart. Many drivers find themselves clinging to the familiarity of a fuel-powered engine, when in fact, electric engines are usually cheaper to maintain, drive, and insure.
If you’ve just made the leap to electric, you might be wondering what exactly you’re dealing with. Luckily, we’re here with our essential Beginner’s Guide To Electric Vehicles.
What Is An Electric Vehicle?
An electric vehicle, also known as an alternative vehicle, is a general term for any vehicle which is driven by an electric engine, as opposed to conventional vehicles which are powered by petrol or diesel. A vehicle which uses both electricity and petrol/diesel is known as a Hybrid.
The fact that there are no fossil fuels involved makes electric cars more environmentally friendly, as they release few to no carbon emissions. They are also fume-free, cheaper to run, and can even earn the driver tax incentives and other benefits from their national government.
The Basic Guide To Electric Engines
Electric vehicles are driven by an electric motor, which is powered by a traction battery pack (also called a stack). Each axle is controlled by one motor, so EVs are usually front or rear-drive. Some manufacturers, however, add an extra motor, which makes the vehicle a four-wheel drive.
When the driver puts their foot down, they can adjust their speed using a controller. The controller manages their speed by regulating how much power is directed to the motor.
The batteries can be charged either at a selected charging point or home charging setup. Some electric vehicles can also be charged using the energy that is generated when the vehicle is moving.
Common Maintenance Issues
As a general rule, electric vehicles contain fewer parts than cars with internal combustion engines. This means that they are usually easier to repair and require less maintenance.
However, as with any car, there are a few mechanical issues that you may need to watch out for:
An electric car decelerates using a system called regenerative braking; kinetic energy is transformed by the motor into stored energy for later use. This means that the car is not as reliant on the brakes to slow down. As such, there is much less wear and tear on the brake pads of an electric car versus a petrol or diesel car.
However, you still need to regularly flush out the brake fluid; electric cars use the same gyroscopic hydraulic fluid found in combustion engines, so unless you regularly flush out your brakes, your system is still at risk of corrosion.
You will also need to replace your brake pads and discs, just the same as with a conventional combustion engine.
The battery of an electric car is an essential component.
As nearly all parts of an EV are reliant on the battery to operate, it is essential that the battery is in top condition. This means that you should not allow your battery to run completely flat, and keep your car charge above at least 20%. You should perform regular maintenance on the battery of your vehicle.
If you are having problems starting your car, there are two batteries that you should check: the twelve-volt battery which powers the dashboard and electrical components, and the lithium-ion battery.
The twelve-volt battery can be jump-started from a petrol or diesel car, but the lithium-ion battery cannot. You also cannot jumpstart the twelve-volt battery car using another electric vehicle.
If your lithium-ion battery breaks down, you are better oﬀ investing in a new vehicle. The batteries for electric cars are worth tens of thousands of pounds, plus labour costs, so it is more financially viable to replace the whole car, instead of just the battery.
Just like a standard vehicle, your car’s tires will get wear and tear issues over time. Many electric cars are prone to erosion of the tire tread, due to the heavy weight of the vehicle. You should get your tires replaced at least every 6-12 months for your car to stay in top condition.
Just as with a petrol or diesel car, you should check your tire pressures and pump up where needed.
Electric cars don’t use radiator fluid or automatic transmission fluid, so the only fluid levels that you have to worry about are your coolant, brake and wiper fluids.
Replace your coolant regularly, and then you only have to top up your brake and wiper fluids when necessary. How often you have to change your coolant may vary from model to model, so check your driver’s manual.
Coolant should be replaced by a qualified technician, as EV cooling systems are usually sealed.
Electric vehicles generally need to be serviced just as regularly as conventional cars, however, there is usually less that needs to be done, meaning that you will still save money when getting your car serviced.
It may, however, be more diﬃcult to find a mechanic who specialises in electric vehicles, so look for big chains, as they are more likely to be experienced in servicing electric cars.