How Does an Electric Car Motor Work?

July 10th, 2023 by

Electric vehicles (EVs) are gaining traction in the automotive market. This is in part due to their being a more environmentally friendly and sustainable alternative to traditional gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles. If you’re interested in an EV, it’s important that you understand how an electric engine works and how this compares to the internal combustion engine (ICE) that’s at the core of many of the cars on the road today.

How an Electric Motor Works

black chevrolet bolt electric vehicle

An electric motor works differently than an ICE. Instead of igniting fuel to create small, controlled explosions that power the pistons to move the vehicle, it uses the power of electromagnets to turn the wheels. To help you understand this, consider that in an electric motor, there are two sets of electromagnets. One is mounted to a shaft, and the other to the surrounding housing. These two sets start with the same polarity, so they repel each other, effectively turning the shaft and spinning the wheels of the car.

To maintain this state of repulsion and keep the shaft turning, the motor needs to be continuously powered. This is done with a battery, which is located on the car’s underside, and an inverter, which converts the direct current from the battery into alternating current (AC). AC power changes polarity 60 times per second, and it’s this behavior that leads to the electromagnets’ polarity constantly changing while the shaft is turning. This keeps them from just locking in place because they attract, rather than repel, each other.

The stark contrast between how the two motors work means that the maintenance they require also differs. In general, it’s easier and cheaper to maintain an electric motor and, by extension, an EV compared to an ICE and the traditional vehicle. This is because it has fewer parts that can wear out and need replacing. Also, many of the routine maintenance tasks that are performed on a gas-powered car and its ICE are neither necessary nor applicable to an electric motor.

Are Electric Motors Better?

More people are choosing to go with EVs because of the many advantages they offer. This doesn’t mean, however, that electric motors have no drawbacks. Compared to ICEs, they require a charged battery to work, and charging takes a much longer time than just filling the tank with fuel. Also, they’re more expensive if we simply look at the average price of EVs compared to their traditional counterparts. Finally, charging stations, while already starting to become prevalent, aren’t as widely available as gas stations, making electric motors a less practical and convenient option for many.

Despite these disadvantages, EVs are the future, and electric motors are better in many ways than ICEs. Here are some things that make them superior:

Better Reliability

An ICE is made up of many parts, and if one of these wears out or fails, the car may become less efficient or worse, inoperable. An electric motor, on the other hand, possesses fewer moving components. This makes it more reliable because there’s less that can go wrong with it.

Lower Maintenance Costs

There are fewer parts that require maintenance, service, and replacement in an electric motor. Procedures that are crucial to the ICE, such as oil changes, transmission fluid flushes, engine tuneups, and spark plug replacements, aren’t necessary. This translates not only into lower maintenance costs but also a lower cost of ownership for EVs overall.

Instant Torque at a Lower RPM

The torque curve for a gasoline engine is steep in general. This means that to generate maximum power or torque, an ICE needs to rev high or achieve a specific rpm. This can create a lag in power delivery, which can affect the car’s acceleration. In contrast, an electric motor can provide instantaneous torque even at a low rpm. This allows an EV to accelerate faster and can make it more fun to drive because of its responsiveness.

Advanced All-Wheel-Drive System

Some EVs have an all-wheel-drive (AWD) system that uses four electric motors, each of which powers one wheel. This is better and more advanced than the AWD systems found in many ICE-powered vehicles that make use of mechanical components to distribute power to the wheels. And it makes EVs quite capable of off-roading.

What Are the Benefits of an Electric Motor?An EV lithium ion engine with belts and hoses

Electric motors have revolutionized the way we power our vehicles, and given how fast they’re evolving, it’s only a matter of time before EVs become the dominant form of transportation. Here are some of the benefits you can enjoy when you opt for a vehicle powered by an electric motor:

  • Quiet operation: Electric motors don’t generate the kind of noise that ICEs do.
  • Efficiency: An electric motor can convert more of the energy it receives into motion than an ICE.
  • Positive environmental impact: A fully electric vehicle doesn’t produce tailpipe emissions, contributing to a cleaner environment.
  • Sustainability: Electric motors can be powered by renewable energy sources, such as hydropower, as well as solar and wind power.
  • Incentives: The federal government and many states provide tax incentives, discounts, and rebates to EV owners and those who’d like to lease or buy one.

Which Has More Power?

The answer to this depends on your definition of power. An electric motor is more powerful than an ICE in that it’s more efficient and can reach higher speeds more quickly. In addition, an ICE often has greater torque output, so you can also make a case for it having more power. When it comes to the driving range, an EV can’t compete with an ICE-powered vehicle just yet. The continuous improvement of EV technology, however, is making this issue less of a concern.

Shop for your next EV at #1 Cochran Chevrolet in Youngstown

An EV is an excellent choice if you value efficiency, environmental responsibility, sustainability, and long-term cost savings. If you’re interested in purchasing one but you don’t know where to start, get in touch with us at #1 Cochran Chevrolet in Youngstown, Ohio. Our knowledgeable team can help you find an electric or hybrid vehicle that best suits your budget, needs, and preferences.

2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV – April 2019 (2813) by Gregory Varnum is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0

Posted in Electric Vehicles