How does an electric car work?

Maybe not so shockingly (pun intended), many drivers don’t know how an electric car actually works. For many, the knowledge spans as far as plugging it in, letting charge, and driving it off.

It’s not really as simple as that, even though an electric motor is comprised of far fewer moving parts than a traditional internal combustion engine. A video from “Learn Engineering” looks to explain what’s actually going on underneath all the clockwork and introduce the masses to a world of electric propulsion.

The video presentation tears down a standard Tesla Model S, no doubt the world’s most well-known electric car, and provides a slightly awkward voiceover to deliver the knowledge. Get past the odd narration and the information is pretty valuable, however.

Components such as the induction motor, inverter, transmission, differential, battery pack, synchronized vehicle mechanism, and regenerative braking system are all awarded a deep dive in the name of electric vehicle education. We learn that the motor is efficient over a wide range of operating conditions and that the inverter can vary the frequency and amplitude of the AC power it feeds to the motor, thus controlling how much power the car receives. The upshot? An electric motor needs only a single-speed transmission.

Additionally, the video looks at how Tesla, in particular, builds its batteries. Tesla uses thousands of small cylindrical lithium-ion cells, passes liquid glycol through tubes between the cells to cool them, and mounts the battery pack beneath the cabin floor. Some automakers opt for large, rectangular cells. 

With the market’s demand for electric cars only expected to grow, it’s not a bad idea to brush up on life sans gasoline-powered engines. This video makes the bold prediction that electric motors are expected to make their internal combustion counterparts obsolete by 2025. That may be too soon, but this video is worth a look any way. Watch it and when our electric overlords come, you will know how they work.

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