How do electric cars work?

With technology rapidly improving and major car manufacturers racing to produce electric cars, electric vehicles (EV) are becoming more and more popular.

But how do electric cars work?

In this article, we’ll talk about the different types of electric cars, their components, motors, batteries, and how these parts work together to make the car run.

Types of Electric Cars

Electric cars are great for many reasons. Most people like electric vehicles because they can help you pay less at the pump and emit less (or no) pollution into the air around us than driving a purely gasoline-powered vehicle.

Electric cars can run on electricity and aren’t as dependent on fossil fuels like most traditional, gasoline-powered vehicles. It is worth noting that not all-electric cars are created equal. Generally, when we’re talking about electric cars, we’re talking about one of three types of cars. There are hybrids, fuel cells, and pure electric cars. All three can run on an electric charge, which means there’s no carbon byproduct to release into the air. But they’re still a bit different.

Hybrid Cars

Hybrid cars generally have both an electric motor and a conventional gasoline or diesel engine (engines are powered by combustion while motors run on electricity.) While there are gases released into the atmosphere from the conventional engine, the pollution from driving a hybrid car is far less than a traditional vehicle since it is not always burning fuel.

Hybrid cars can generally drive farther than normal electric cars, but because of the two-engines-one-hood characteristic, their electric motors are usually smaller and less powerful. So although they can go farther, they can’t go as far on just electricity as other electric cars.

Fuel Cell Cars

Fuel cell cars generally convert hydrogen gas into electricity which then powers the car. Fuel cell cars are relatively new to the industry but still play a promising role in cutting down air pollution and reducing their drivers’ collective carbon footprint.

Electric Cars

Regular electric cars consist of a battery pack and a few other parts that we’ll talk about later. These cars do not run on fossil fuels at all. All you do is plug the vehicle in to charge, turn it on to drive, and go about your day how you would in any other car.

Electric Car Parts You Need To Know’s Alternative Fuels Data Center outlines the most important parts of an electric car that you should know about. These are the basic parts that help electric cars run:

Auxiliary Battery

The car’s auxiliary battery is what provides power to all of your car’s accessories.

Charge Port

When your electric car’s power is running low, you probably need to plug it in so it can charge. That’s where the charge port (charging station) comes in handy.

DC/DC Converter

Unlike most electronics, which run on alternating current and need a device to convert DC electricity into AC, electric cars only need the voltage reduced. The DC/DC converter helps lower the voltage to a range your car can handle.

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Electric Traction Motor

This electric motor is what propels the car into motion. Some car motors not only help you drive the car, but they also help regenerate some electricity as well.

Onboard Charger

The onboard charger converts AC electricity into DC. It also monitors the battery pack to make sure everything is running how it’s supposed to.

Power Electronics Controller

The power electronics controller (PEC) manages the car’s electrical flow. The PEC is what lets the motor run faster or slower and thereby, controls the speed of the car.

Thermal System

Have you ever had an electronic device overheat? If so, you’ve probably noticed that overheating usually causes an electronic device’s battery to drain quickly or it causes the device to shut down entirely. The thermal system helps keep your electric car cool so neither of those things happen.

Traction Battery Pack

The battery pack is usually located beneath the car seats. That’s because it’s so large. This battery pack is what powers your car motor. It doesn’t power anything else.


The transmission uses mechanical power produced by the electric motor to move the wheels of the car.

So how do electric cars work?

As you can imagine, all of the above-mentioned parts work together to create a fully functional vehicle. You charge the batteries with the charge port or charging station and the onboard charger. The DC/DC converter takes that electricity and lowers the voltage, while your batteries power the different parts of your car, and the thermal system monitors the heat the car produces. You drive using a mix of the power electronics controller, transmission, and electric motor.

Each of these parts is necessary. They each play a role in getting you from A to B.

Benefits Of Electric Cars

So what’s the point of an electric car?

We’ve already mentioned one of the most important benefits of driving an electric vehicle: less pollution in our air. That should be reason enough to consider buying an EV the next time you need a new car.

But it’s also worth mentioning that electric car technology is getting better and better every year and EVs are catching up to their fossil fuel competitors. And as prices continue to drop, and efficiency continues to increase, America is seeing more and more charging stations.

In fact, every year it’s getting easier and easier to drive electric. Much like adding solar panels to your home, many people are coming to the conclusion that electric cars are both a viable and affordable option for them.

Vivint Solar Can Help Power Your Electric Car

At Vivint Solar, we equip homes with solar panels to help you potentially save money on your electric bill while helping the environment. If you’re thinking of buying an electric car, consider going solar. Otherwise, your electric car is getting its electricity from a large power plant, which in all likelihood, runs off of fossil fuels. But if you power your electric car with solar electricity, your car will be truly green.

Not only can Vivint Solar help you power your EV, but we can help you charge it as well. While you can plug your electric car into a standard home outlet, a 240V charger like the ChargePoint Home EV Charger is much faster!

Talk with one of our reps today to learn more about going solar!

See how much solar could save you!

To get a free quote, call 877.987.5591 or fill out the form below.

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