Posted on January 29 2021
Electric cars are on the rise: several manufacturers plan to stop producing conventional combustion engines in the foreseeable future. Are e-cars the solution?
E-mobility is on everyone's lips in view of the discussion about human-caused climate change. According to some – though not all – experts in the field of individual mobility, vehicles with electric drives can contribute significantly to reducing CO2 emissions and thus at least partially relieve the global climate. But what makes electric cars so special?
How does an electric car work?
Just like a "combustion engine", the electric car does not run without a motor, except that the motor draws its energy from the stored electricity in the battery. The stored energy becomes mechanically usable by generating alternately attracting and repelling magnetic fields, via the components of the AC motor.
To achieve this effect, several important components are needed, including
- high and low voltage batteries
- the electric motor
- the so-called power electronics
- a charging connection
The high-voltage battery is the actual storage part of the battery. It must always be recharged at a charging station. The "capacity" of the battery is decisive for how far the electric vehicle can drive before it has to be recharged. Currently, ranges of between 100 and around 600 kilometres are possible.
Lithium-ion batteries are used in most e-cars – mainly because of the fast-charging times and the high storage capacity.
Another battery is needed to operate the electronics on board, which power the windscreen wipers, the lights, but also the radio and GPS. The actual motor creates the magnetic fields that generate torque and thus set the vehicle in motion. The energy of the battery is modified by the power electronics to meet the requirements of the engine.
The most important differences to the combustion engine
Unlike the familiar car engine, e-cars are not powered by fossil fuels. Neither petroleum products such as petrol or diesel nor gas are needed for the journey. This makes the overexploitation of nature, as well as the production of waste petroleum products, including plastic, redundant.
Since no fossil fuels are burnt, the pollutants produced during the combustion process are not produced either. And if the required charging current for the e-car is generated in a sustainable way, i.e. by photovoltaic, hydroelectric or wind power, the journey is an unadulterated pleasure to begin with.
What's more, e-cars are quiet! No roaring engine, no rattling exhaust – even at higher speeds, the electric car comes along almost eerily quietly.
Many advantages – but also some disadvantages
So, an electric vehicle has a lot of advantages. However, the driving pleasure is not quite cheap. But that is not the most important counterargument. After all, environmental pollution still occurs. On the one hand, this is due to the extraction of lithium, aluminium and other raw materials that are used in the batteries, and on the other hand, it is also due to the origin of the charging energy. If the "electric filling station" draws its electricity from coal power, among other sources, the electric car is only marginally less harmful to the environment than a combustion engine. So when refuelling, take a close look – ideally, the charging current should come mainly from hydroelectric or wind power.
Interesting facts about e-cars
What is touted as a groundbreaking innovation is not one at all – and only very few people know other facts about electric vehicles that are worth knowing:
- Electric cars were first manufactured over 170 years ago – in Aberdeen, Scotland.
- The best-selling electric car is not Tesla, but a Nissan model. The Chinese manufacturer NIO has also caught up, especially with SUVs.
- Electric cars that can travel up to 600 kilometres have been around for 10 years.
- The hydrogen-based fuel cell is the future alternative to the battery. E-cars with built-in solar cells that recharge the battery again and again have also been introduced.
- The absolute leader among electric vehicles in Europe as of the end of 2020 is the Renault brand. With 95'985 registrations (up 80 % on the previous year) of the purely electric models ZOE, Kangoo Z.E. and Twingo Electric, the French manufacturer has secured the pole position in the European electric vehicle market. Success in Switzerland too: the 100% electric ZOE is the number 1 model in the small car segment in 2020. And with the new Renault Twingo Electric, the most affordable electric car in Switzerland was recently launched. Maintenance costs are not zero for the electric car either, but they are pretty much half those of a conventional combustion engine due to the elimination of oil and its filters. The lithium-ion batteries of a Renault guarantee an endurance of around 160'000 kilometres, although some vehicles have already achieved a service life of over 200'000 kilometres, depending on use.
There is still some work to be done on this exciting technology, but the first steps have been taken. E-cars are suitable for everyday use. Even though the majority of our team travels by public transport, NIKIN has also recently acquired a Renault e-car. With this car, we want to handle smaller transports and participation in events such as pop-up stores or festivals in a sustainable way and also stay true to our sustainability commitment with the company car!
So far, we are absolutely satisfied with the performance of our new Renault ZOE and the great service provided by Aare Touring Garage AG in Buchs (AG), with whom we enjoy a great partnership. The competent and extremely friendly staff will be happy to advise you about their range of electric cars if you are interested or have any questions. We wish you a safe and enjoyable journey, perhaps soon with your own electric car.