How an Electric Vehicle Works [Infographic]

Getting your head around the basics of how an electric car works is easier than you think.
Jessica Miley

Electric vehicles (EVs) are here to stay.

Sales of EVs are on the rise across the globe and as the technology improves, they are increasing in range and performance as well as dropping in price.

But how exactly does an electric vehicle work?

For many non-technical people, the idea of comprehending how these clean vehicles move is totally overwhelming. But actually understanding how an electric car works are far simpler than understanding a combustion engine inside a regular fossil-fuel dependent car.

First up, we need to pay some respect to Nikola Tesla, the inventor that discovered alternating current, which allows electric cars to exist in the first place. 

Most electric cars convert direct current electricity into alternating current electricity, directly using the great thinkers most famous invention.

Direct current electricity is electricity that flows one way, alternating current means that the electron flow changes or alternates. An electric car has five basic aspects that are all necessary to produce power, drive the car forward, and recharge it.

How an Electric Vehicle Works [Infographic]
Source: The Zebra

1. The Battery Pack

Arguably the most important part of the car is the battery pack. This is usually made up of up to 7000 lithium-ion cells batteries that produce direct current.

The batteries are stacked together with coolant pumped between them to keep them cool and efficient. Batteries are continually getting more and more efficient, so where once an EV could only drive short distances, new cars have ranges of several hundred miles.

2. Inverter

The cars inverter convert the batteries direct current to alternating current. The inverter also plays an important role during regenerative braking that it transfers energy back to the battery.

The inverter also plays an important role during regenerative braking. The kinetic energy of the decelerating vehicle is converted into electricity through the motor and sent back to the battery pack for later use.

3. Induction Motor

Electric cars use induction motors . Depending on the making of the car, this will be either a permanent magnet electric motor, like what you'd find inside a Tesla Model 3, or an AC induction motor. 

In both cases alternating current produces a rotating magnetic field that causes it to turn. The difference between the two types is that permanent magnet motor doesn't need electricity to get the motor to spin as the rare-earth metals are always on.  

4. Drivetrain 

A single transmission engine transmits this power from the motor to the wheels of the car, and thus drives it forward.  

5. Charging 

Finally, the charging of the car works when you plug your car into an external power source.


Electric cars can be charged in three ways.

The first is at home using a standard power supply to charge your vehicle, this method takes about 3-8 kilometers per hour to charge. The second method is at a public charge station using 220/240 volt circuit that improves charging time to 16 to 25 kilometers per hour of charge.