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Electric Vehicle Basics

July 30, 2013 - 4:45pm


Photo of an electric bus driving up a hill.Electricity can be used as a transportation fuel to power battery electric vehicles (EVs). EVs store electricity in an energy storage device, such as a battery. The electricity powers the vehicle's wheels via an electric motor. EVs have limited energy storage capacity, which must be replenished by plugging into an electrical source.

In an electric vehicle, a battery or other energy storage device is used to store the electricity that powers the motor. EV batteries must be replenished by plugging the vehicle to a power source. Some EVs have onboard chargers; others plug into a charger located outside the vehicle. Both types use electricity that comes from the power grid. Although electricity production may contribute to air pollution, EVs are considered zero-emission vehicles because their motors produce no exhaust or emissions.

All-electric vehicles that can operate at highway speed have been announced by many automobile manufacturers. Conversion kits are also available to transform a conventional light-duty vehicle into one that runs on electricity.

More common are the neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs) that are limited to operating on roads with speed limits of 35 miles per hour or less. Manufactured by a variety of companies, NEVs are popular in gated communities, campuses, and business parks and are used for maintenance, trash collection, and passenger transportation.

Other useful EVs in niche applications include electric scooters and bikes.

Visit the Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center to learn more about electric vehicles.