To a trained eye, they are visible everywhere nowadays. Cars that stand out in traffic with their often slightly avant-garde design. Cars that, with their discreet humming sound, bring thoughts of a science fiction movie. The future is already here. But what really counts as an electric vehicle?
An EV, or electrical vehicle, can be a car or truck powered by an electric motor or by an internal combustion engine and an electric motor using a battery. If a passenger car is solely powered by an electric motor, it is called an electric car. On the other hand, a plug-in hybrid, has two systems that work together, where the electric motor can engage at lower speeds while the internal combustion engine takes over for longer distances or when the battery needs charging. A plug-in hybrid can be charged at home, at work or from a public charging station.
An electric hybrid, similar to a plug-in hybrid, also has an electric motor and an internal combustion engine, but it cannot be charged by plugging in a charging cable. Instead, the electric hybrid charges the car's battery during braking or by using the generator when driving with the combustion engine as the power source.
The main differences compared to a fossil fuel car
What sets an EV apart from a gasoline or diesel vehicle is primarily its lower carbon footprint over the entire lifecycle. This means everything from raw material extraction and mining of the metals needed for the vehicle's battery, to the production of the car and battery, the period when the car is registered and in use, as well as scrapping and recycling. You can learn more about the climate impact of electric vehicles on our society and the environment here.
For those considering purchasing a rechargeable vehicle or who are already owners, it might not only be the environmental factor that drives your decision. Other advantages such as modern technology, low operating costs, and nearly silent driving comfort can also carry significant weight. Even though an electric car is still more expensive to purchase than an equivalent model with an internal combustion engine, the overall costs can be lower if, for example, you opt for a smaller electric car, only drive shorter distances, and have the ability to charge at home.
The battery - the "heart" of an electric vehicle
It's becoming increasingly important to be able to quickly assess the battery condition of rechargeable vehicles, partly due to the growing used car market, but primarily because the battery is considered the most expensive component in an electric car. This makes the battery's health status, or remaining capacity, a crucial factor in determining the value of the car you might be considering buying.
A used electric car with a poorly performing battery could result in substantial costs for the owner if it needs replacement. A new lithium-ion battery for some of the most common electric cars on the market can cost between 100,000 and 200,000 SEK. Therefore, it is important to take good care of your battery. Fast charging, high temperatures, and leaving the car with a fully charged battery for extended periods can significantly reduce the battery's capacity and lifespan. You can read more about this here.
What type of EV should I invest in?
We are all unique with different circumstances and requirements. Our advice is to reflect on what you require and desire from a car. Do I need a rechargeable car? Does the environment hold significance for me? What is my living situation like? What's my financial status? What are my driving habits?
A plug-in hybrid might be suitable for those who want to enjoy the best of both worlds; the flexibility of two collaborating power sources has its benefits. There might be occasions when you can't charge and thus can rely on the internal combustion engine. In different situations, you might choose to run on the electric motor due to its cost-effectiveness and environmental friendliness. Generally, a plug-in hybrid is more affordable to purchase than an electric car but slightly pricier than an equivalent model with an internal combustion engine.
If environmental concerns are paramount, considering a dedicated electric car could be worth exploring. However, keep in mind that they can still be relatively expensive to buy and require reliable charging facilities. If your access to charging at home or work is limited, an electric hybrid might be a reasonable option as it has almost zero emissions during electric operation.
Electric vehicles - different concepts to know:
- Plug-in hybrid. An electric vehicle with cooperative power sources that can run on both an electric motor and an internal combustion engine. The electric motor of a plug-in hybrid is powered by a battery that can be charged from an electrical outlet.
- Fuel cell vehicle. There are currently only a limited number in Sweden. A fuel cell is about twice as energy efficient as an internal combustion engine if used in a car. The potential for energy efficiency and reduced fossil emissions is therefore great.
- EV. Term for vehicles that have some type of electric power source, such as plug-in and electric hybrids or fuel cell vehicles.
- Li-ion. Lithium-ion batteries are widely used in today's e-vehicles, laptops, cell phones and battery-powered power tools.
- Charging power. The amount of energy per unit of time transferred during charging from the grid to the battery. Charging power is measured in watts, unit kW.
- AC. 'Alternating Current'. Term for alternating current and means that the current changes direction and strength over time. AC is found in standard household electrical outlets.
- BMS. 'Battery Management System'. An acronym for the electric vehicle's battery monitoring system that controls the charging, discharging and temperature of the battery.
- DC. "Direct Current". Term for direct current, which means that the current has a constant strength and the same direction. Usually an electric car's motor is powered by direct current.
- EVSE. 'Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment'. Name of the residual current device (RCD) used for charging electric vehicles. The EVSE is usually mounted on the charging cable or in the charging pole. An RCD is a mechanical switch for personal protection in electrical installations.
- Fob (Key fob). "Ignition key".
- Short circuit. Unintentional connection of an electrical circuit with conductive material that has resistance close to zero ohms.
- Thermal runaway. An uncontrolled increase in the internal cell temperature of the battery, which can lead to a fire in the battery.