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Electric cars - Important questions and answers

Published on 30.01.2018

As a rule, switching to electric raises a lot of questions. How much to electric cars cost? How do they work? And what do motorists have to watch out for, in particular? We have compiled a list of the ten most important questions and answers for you.

Which electric cars are for sale?

There are currently more than 20 purely electric models from different manufacturers on the market: BMW i3, Citroën C-Zero, Citroën E-Mehari, Ford Focus Electric, Hyundai Ioniq, Kia Soul EV, Mercedes B 250 e, Mitsubishi e-MIEV, Nissan e-NV200 Evalia, Nissan Leaf, Opel Ampera-e, Peugeot iOn, Renault Kangoo Z.E., Renault Zoe, Smart Forfour ED, Smart Fortwo ED, Smart Fortwo Cabrio ED, Tesla Model S, Tesla Model X, VW e-Golf and VW e-Up.

How much does an electric car cost?

The price of the models referred to above ranges from 21,150 euros (Peugeot Ion) to more than 100,000 euros (Tesla Model X). Compared to cars with fuel engines, electric vehicles are quite expensive. There are several reasons for this: many manufacturers have low production figures and very high development costs. The price increases accordingly. In addition, Tesla, with its Model S and Model X, embodies the luxury car segment, which impacts on the price. Looking ahead, experts expect the average price to stabilise at a much lower level as soon as a mass market emerges where manufacturers sell larger volumes. Apart from the purchase price, it should also be taken into account that vehicles generate daily costs (fixed costs, operating costs, loss of value and maintenance and repair costs).

Comment fonctionne une voiture électrique ?

Un véhicule exclusivement électrique dispose au minimum d’un moteur électrique et d’une batterie de traction (batterie d’entraînement). Le moteur électrique se situe la plupart du temps, comme sur les véhicules traditionnels, sous le capot avant ou sur l’essieu arrière. Certains constructeurs expérimentent aussi des solutions à base de moteurs-roues. Dans cette configuration, deux ou quatre moteurs sont directement intégrés dans les roues. Sur les voitures électriques, il n’est pas utile de changer de vitesse, car le couple maximal du moteur est disponible dès le démarrage. Ainsi, en règle générale, les véhicules électriques ont seulement une vitesse avant et une vitesse arrière. Freins, pneus, sièges, portes, fenêtres : la construction de base des véhicules électriques de série est quasiment identique à celle de la plupart des véhicules traditionnels, la carrosserie étant adaptée au moteur et à la batterie de traction.
How does an electric car work?

A purely electric vehicle has at least one electric motor and one traction battery (driving battery). As with conventional car models, most of the time the electric motor is found under the front bonnet or on the rear axle. Some manufacturers are also experimenting with engine-wheel solutions. In this set up, two or four engines are directly integrated into the wheels. With electric cars, it is not necessary to change gears, because torque is delivered instantly. Therefore, as a rule, electric vehicles only have a front- and rear-wheel drive. Brakes, tyres, seats, doors, windows: the basic design of standard electric vehicles is almost identical to that of most conventional models, the body being adapted to the engine and the traction battery.

What battery life does an electric car have?

Battery life varies according to the size of the battery and the vehicle. In principle, a basic rule prevails: the greater the battery life, the more expensive the electric car is.
According to data from car manufacturers, it starts about 150 km, as is the case for the Citroën C-Zero. Tesla's electric vehicles have the greatest battery life: they run with a battery that can provide a range of up to 600 km (manufacturer's data for its Model S). The US manufacturer is the unofficial battery life record holder.
This is mainly due to the large capacity of the batteries used, which ranges from 75 to 100 kWh depending on the variant. Smaller and significantly cheaper electric cars usually have a much lower battery capacity (20 to 60 kWh). Moreover, actual battery life depends on the various climatic conditions. If temperatures are low, they do not last as long, mainly because of the use of heating or air conditioning. Fast driving also results in a reduction in driving time, as this type of driving consumes more energy.

Do I need a battery charger at home?

In principle, an electric car can be charged to an ordinary earthed socket. That said, this is not advisable and should be reserved solely for emergency cases, because old domestic installations are not suitable for such a long charging process. A dedicated charging station is better adapted to this. Advantage: the battery charges faster. You can get more information from your car dealer.
When you buy a new vehicle, many manufacturers offer a battery charger for an additional charge. An electrician must first check if the domestic installation is suitable and will give you an estimate for the cost of the installation.

What is the difference between an electric car and a hybrid car?

Pure electric cars are powered by a single source of energy (the electricity stored in the traction battery). A hybrid vehicle has both an electric motor and a conventional fuel engine (petrol or diesel), both operating the vehicle's powertrain either together or separately. Most of the time, the electric motor supports the fuel engine enabling lower fuel consumption.
In addition, a hybrid vehicle has a traction battery which is charged by the fuel engine or when the vehicle breaks (kinetic energy). The engine's power source is petrol or diesel.

What is a rechargeable hybrid?

Plug-in hybrids are hybrid vehicles with a larger traction battery that can be charged to the electricity grid. The purely electric battery can travel up to at least 50 kilometres. Extra distances can be added thanks to the petrol or diesel engine. The engine's source of power is electricity, petrol or diesel. Electric vehicles also equipped with a range extender are included among the hybrid vehicles because they use two sources of energy, but the vehicle is set in motion via the electric motor. When the traction battery is empty, the fuel engine starts to provide the necessary energy.

What are the risks in case of an accident with an electric vehicle?

Electric vehicles have a high voltage DC battery (most of the time a lithium-ion battery) that stores energy electrochemically. Since this battery usually shuts off automatically when an airbag is triggered, electric cars are, in principle, just as safe as traditional vehicles. However, the situation can become critical if the battery becomes warped following a serious accident.
The cells can then overheat and catch fire due to the internal damage they have suffered. In such cases, experts speak of a ‘battery thermal runaway’.

Who is the electric car for?

To find out if the electric car is right for you, just try it out! A single test drive will assess driving sensation and comfort while enabling any new risks that electric cars may entail to be better envisaged. Due to the very quiet movement of the vehicle, pedestrians or cyclists may be unaware of their presence. Drivers must be on their guard.
Electric vehicles are well-suited to commuting to and from work, or as a second vehicle. Before buying, we advise you to do a test run of this journey using the vehicle you are thinking of buying. The battery capacity should only be about 2/3. The test makes it possible to ensure that the battery life is sufficient while considering that, in reality, it may be necessary to make detours, climatic conditions may be extreme and that the battery life can diminish over time.


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