Many countries already have plans to phase out combustion engine vehicles in the next 15 to 30 years. For this reason, vehicle manufacturers are creating electric vehicles that will appeal to the masses. You might already be in the market for one of these vehicles. However, there are a few things you need to know before buying one.

How Electric Vehicles Work

An internal combustion engine needs four things to work: fuel, ignition, air and compression. The fuel injector adds fuel to the piston/combustion chamber, the fuel is then mixed with air and compressed by the piston. The spark plug then causes ignition, a small explosion that pushes the piston downwards. This process repeats as long as the vehicle is on and there is enough fuel to keep it going.

An electric vehicle is very different as it runs on two main components: a battery and electric motors. To simplify things, the batteries are charged which then transmit power to the motors. These motors then drive the wheels, and this process goes on as long as the motors are supplied with a current which happens as long as your foot is on the pedal.

The middle point between the two is hybrid vehicles which run on both electricity and fuel. These vehicles take fuel and can be charged from an outlet or charging station, or can be charged using energy from driving and braking.

Electric Cars Are Very Reliable

Electric vehicles do not have as many moving parts as combustion engine vehicles. There are no fuel tanks, spark plugs, exhaust, fuel lines, gearbox, clutch and other parts that are all potential points of failure. Electric vehicles also produce less vibration because they do not have an engine or pistons. Less vibration means they are subjected to a lot less stress. Both of these factors combine to make electric vehicles a lot more reliable, and it also means there is less maintenance and a lot less wear and tear.

One thing to understand is that while electric vehicles are easy to maintain and more reliable, they can be much more costly to repair than their combustion engine counterparts. This is because, while they have fewer moving parts, they have more complicated systems and a battery that holds a lot of power. This means they have to be handled carefully and by professionals experienced in working with these complex systems and high-capacity batteries. If you want to know more, check this guide from ElectriX on what to expect from an electric car.

Vehicle Range Varies a Lot

Range is the distance a vehicle will travel on one tank of fuel or one charge. Just like combustion engines have different fuel tank capacities, electric vehicles have different battery capacities. Many factors affect the range of an electric vehicle, but the general rule is that cars with higher capacity batteries have longer ranges.

These ranges vary from one manufacturer to the next and from one electric car to the next. Even electronic car models from the same manufacturer will have different ranges depending on the capacity of their batteries.

Ideally, you want a car that has about 500 kilometres of range, which many modern electric vehicles do. Remember that a larger battery to increase range will also affect how the vehicle performs due to the added weight, so this is something to think about too depending on how you drive and want the vehicle to perform.

There Are Different Charging Levels

If you have no experience with electric vehicles, you might think that they all charge at the same speed. Like modern smartphones that charge at different wattages, electric vehicles also charge at different speeds. 

This depends on how much charge is available and how much charge the vehicle can accept. If a vehicle that can accept faster charging is connected to a charger or charging station that can provide enough power, it will charge at the fastest available speed it can accept. Other factors that affect how fast an electric vehicle charges include battery capacity, the onboard charger, the vehicle’s efficiency and others. 

There are three levels of charging; 1, 2 and DC charging. Level 1 is 120-volt charging using a typical outlet in the home. This charging level is also known as trickle charging because it is very slow. It provides 5–8 kilometres of charging for every hour of charging. Because it is the basic level of charging, vehicle manufacturers typically include a level 1 charger with the vehicle purchase.

Every electric vehicle owner should install a level 2 charger at home. Level 2 charging is the most useful and common charging level at home. It charges at 2240 volts and uses about 60 to 80 amps meaning that it charges vehicles much faster. One hour of charging adds 9–10 kilometres of range to an electric vehicle.

DC fast charging is the fastest charging level for electric vehicles. Because an electric vehicle’s battery holds DC power and this level uses DC charging, it is like dumping water from a larger container (charging station) into a smaller one (vehicle battery). DC charging can add 10 kilometres of range for every minute of charging, making it the preferred option for vehicles that support it including Teslas. This is because there is no choke point of power conversion as would happen when charging using AC power.

Apart from Teslas, electric vehicles require two charging circuits; one that accepts AC power for level 1 and 2 charging and a DC circuit for DC fast charging. Teslas have an internal switch so they do not need the extra circuit.

You Can Lease Before Buying

If you are not quite sure about buying an electric vehicle, you can always lease one before buying. The good news is that you can find whatever make and model you wish by getting in touch with the right leasing companies. Leasing is much cheaper than paying for the vehicle, although you have to make up the difference if you want to own the vehicle at the end of the lease. Leasing also means you do not have to worry about vehicle depreciation as that is an issue for the leasing company to deal with. Lastly, you also get access to the latest developments in electric vehicles if you switch to new cars at the end of every lease.

Insurance Might Not Be What You Expect

Every driver is legally required to have insurance. How much you pay depends on numerous factors, one of them being the type of vehicle you are driving. Electric vehicles typically have higher insurance premiums. This is because they are very expensive to repair or replace once they have been in an accident. They are also much more likely to be totalled after an accident due to their batteries. Lastly, electric vehicles get into a disproportionately higher number of accidents than other vehicles. These numbers are skewed by the number of Tesla accidents, but they still apply to electric vehicles.

Electric Vehicles Need Regular Maintenance

Just like any other car, electric vehicles require maintenance. The cost and period between services depend on the vehicle, how you drive, and other factors, but it cannot be ignored.

Many people are turning to electric vehicles due to their cheaper maintenance, being better for the environment or due to government mandates. Whatever your reasons, these are some things you need to know before buying one.