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What Is and Isn’t Inside an EV?

What is an EV? What are the obvious things that set an EV apart from the more conventional car that’s powered by an internal combustion engine (ICE)?  And what is an EV like to maintain?

These are just a few of the good questions that might be rattling around in your mind as you consider the possibility of EV ownership.  Let’s face it, most of us probably jump inside our cars and give little thought to what happens inside a car when we drive off.

Let’s start by answering the first question and develop for ourselves an understanding of what an EV is.

The letters ‘EV’ stands for the words ‘electric vehicle’.  EVs don’t have a combustion engine underneath the bonnet, in fact they don’t have a combustion engine at all.  This means that you won’t need to pull over at the gas station to fill your car up with any form of fossil fuel (e.g., unleaded gasoline (91), premium unleaded gasoline (95, 98 or 100 octane) or diesel.  Neither will your car be running on gas (LPG or CNG).  You won’t even have to top your car up with engine coolant or oil for engine lubrication.  Sounds good!

Once you look away from the various processes of mining earth metals like lithium and cobalt (a by-product of nickel and copper mines); neodymium, terbium, or dysprosium (critical metals used in higher powered batteries that can last for longer distances – and everyone wants to be able to last longer) used in EV batteries and electronic componentry, EVs look to be more environmentally friendly and interesting cars to own and drive.

All your power is electronically accessible to your accelerator pedal, and your braking action is processed electronically as well.  When you brake or decelerate, battery power can be reverted back into the battery pack.  Basically, drain the battery in an EV, and you’ll need to plug it into a charging port again before you can get some power for driving about again.  However, that’s nothing new now, is it?

To get power from your house power supply, you’ll need to have a conversion kit built into your home’s power system in order to be able to power up your EV within a suitable time frame, commonly 6 to 10 hours.  More expensive options are available that will enable a quicker charging time.  To get power after commuting around the city, you’re going to require a charging station or a park at work that has a convenient and vacant plug-in port for you to charge your vehicle up again to get home.  There are some other charging stations (and we’ll need many more of these with more EVs running on the road) where you can park up for a couple of hours to recharge or top-up again for your commute home.  If you drive your EV out of town and into the country, you’ll need to be sure that you have enough power between charging ports, because, unlike in a vehicle with a combustion engine, a jerry can won’t get you out of trouble nor will the longest power cord.  I’m not sure what serious Outback off-roading enthusiasts will do if they drive an EV.  Neither am I sure what mobile ‘tradies’ will do when they get caught short on power between towns.

What is missing inside an EV that you have in a common ICE vehicle?

Noise is the first thing that comes to mind.  EVs do without the mechanical noise of the combustion/explosions that takes place inside a working ICE.  What you do get is a very quiet ride with a bit of road noise from the tyres and wind about the bodywork as it slips through the air.  Exhaust emissions are also a non-event.

EVs have no complex clutch or gearing, which means that EVs can accelerate smoothly and quickly, giving you the feeling that you’re driving a sports car.  Instant maximum torque is always accessible.

A purely electric EV has fewer moving parts.  There are only around about 20 moving parts in an electric motor, compared with nearly 2000 mechanical components in an ICE.  The result is that an EV will need less fiddly routine maintenance jobs like changing the engine oil every 10,000km.  You’ll still need to change the tyres on an EV, and you may go through more tyres because of all that instant torque and acceleration.  A pricier tyre made up of a softer compound might also be necessary in order for you to be able to stick to the road better with the EV’s instant and quick acceleration.

You will also need to replace the battery pack, as they do have a life.  This will be the one expensive maintenance bill.  Buy a new EV, and you’ll be able to put this off for 10 years or so.  Buy a second-hand EV, and who knows how long you’ll have before the battery pack will need replacing or you just won’t be going anywhere.

An EV owner will likely also need to pay some sort of road user charge or tax in the not-too-distant future, particularly if more EVs take to our roads.

However, own an EV and you won’t need an ICE tune-up or oil change, and the engine coolant won’t need to be replaced, either.  In essence, an EV has no petrol, diesel or oil.  It has no exhaust, no clutch or gears. It doesn’t have spark plugs, and it has no throbbing combustion noise that you find you get with a V8, a boxer or even a straight six.

As with any car, EVs have both their advantages and their disadvantages.  At this stage, an affordable EV would be a great and enjoyable car for the city environment.

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