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The Technology Behind Electric Car Motors


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Electric cars use electric motors and rechargeable batteries instead of an internal combustion engine that runs on gasoline or diesel.

Interestingly, electric motors were among the first motors used in automobiles, going back to the 1830s. Yes. . . that's over 175 years ago!

One of the benefits then, and now, is that electric car motors run silently. That advantage was negated by the invention of the muffler and, combined with the far better range offered by gasoline-driven cars as well as by the efforts of the oil industry, led to the decline. . . and for over a hundred years, demise. . . of the electric car industry.

However, as people have become more environmentally conscious and it has become more and more clear that oil won't last forever - never mind will never be inexpensive again - electric cars have been making a comeback, both as pure electric cars such as the Tesla and as hybrids.

Note that an electric car motor is not the same thing as an engine. Engines use fuel that combusts, and that combustions causes the engine to turn. On the other hand, electric motors are used in anything from a car to a power drill to an electric toothbrush. They use electrical energy, rather than combustable fuel.

The basic way an electric car motor works is this:

1. An electric motor is used instead of an internal combustion engine

2. The electric power is powered by a controller

3. The controller is powered by rechargeable batteries, rather than gasoline, diesel, or other combustable fuel.

An electric car's fuel is stored in its batteries, not in a fuel tank. These battery packs may weigh 1,000 lbs. And newer batteries, such as lithium ion, hold their charge much longer than older batteries, giving electric cars a long driving range. Plus work has been done successfully on decreasing the recharge time significantly.

A device called a controller (which replaces the distributor found in vehicles powered by internal combustion engines) delivers the power from the batteries to the electric motor. When you push down on the accelerator pedal, just like you would in a gas-powered car, the controller measures the pressure and transfers power to the motor.

The electric motor itself can be either AC or DC. Electric motors are commonly used in electric wheelchairs, golf carts, fork lifts and the like. The DC electric motors used in electric cars tend to be based on motors used in the forklift industry as they are more powerful than others. If an electric car uses an AC motor, it is probably a 3-phase motor (since electric motors use magnetism to generate force, having 3 phases allows the motor not to get ‘stuck’ between the magnetic poles. )

Some people complain that electric cars aren't as “clean" as we might think, because they require electricity to recharge the battery and that requires electric power generating plants. However, as electric car batteries improve, the amount of electricity need to recharge them decreases significantly, thereby decreasing the need for electricity generation as well.

Most importantly by converting your car to an alternative fuel you are investing in the future of our environment.

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