Everything You Need to Know About Electric Cars

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Posted on 31st January 2017 – Electric Cars

While the invention of the electric car can be dated back to 1829 in Hungary, it is only since the beginning of the 21st century that efforts have been renewed to make them a viable mean of transportation. With little autonomy and an underdeveloped network of recharging points, they couldn’t compete with combustion engine cars, until climate change and the prospect of the end of fossil fuels galvanised car manufacturers to invest into the technology on a massive scale.

What was once the preserve of eco warriors and well-off individuals with a conscience has now gained traction, and most household names in the world of automobile now offer electric cars. The technological challenges they face – the lack of charging stations, a smaller range, limited speed and power storage – remain, but electric cars are no longer quaint and unusual.

The different types of electric cars

Just like conventional cars, electric cars, also called EVs, present different features and accommodate different needs and uses. What they all have in common is that they need to be plugged in to be recharged, unlike hybrid cars whose electric battery is supplemented by a combustion engine and recharges with the energy created by braking.

There are two main types of EVs: all-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles – not to be confused with hybrid vehicles that don’t require external charging. Which one will work best for you will entirely depend on what you intend to use it for. For example, if you mainly need it to zoom around town, an all-electric vehicle with a limited range will be perfect and very economical; if you do a mixture of city driving and the open road, a hybrid car is probably preferable.

An all-electric vehicle (AEV) only runs on electricity. It has a limited autonomy range of around 130 to 160 kilometres, while a handful of luxury models extend it to a very respectable 400 kilometres. When the battery is empty, the car needs to be plugged to recharge which can take from 30 minutes with fast charging to almost a full day with Level 1 charging. So definitely not the right model if you drive long distances.

In that case, plug-in electric vehicles (PHEV) may be a better solution. As their electric range is more limited - 10 to 65 kilometres – they rely more on the combustion engine but you will still benefit from some saving on fuel costs without compromising on autonomy.

Types of chargers and plugs

Even without being a geek, you probably have a lot of gadgets that require charging and you may sometimes wonder why manufacturers can’t get together and make your life easier by agreeing on a single type of charger that can be used for everything. Unfortunately, there is a bit of that going on with electric vehicles too. Of course, it isn’t a problem when you are recharging at home as you will have the right one installed but if you need to recharge at work or when you are out and about, you may be faced with incompatibility.

EVs can be charged from your home electric supply with the installation of a specific plug, but which one will depend on your vehicle.

There are three main categories of chargers:

Level 1 chargers don’t actually require any special equipment, they can recharge on your standard 120V AC plug. They do so at the speed of 3 to 8 kilometres of range per hour of charging.

Level 2 chargers use a 240V current – residential use - or 208V – commercial use - and need special charging equipment. They deliver 16 to 100 kilometres of range per hour of charging.

DC Fast Chargers work with 480V AC input and require very specific equipment at the point of charging as well as on the vehicle itself. They can deliver 100 to 160 kilometres of range for 20 minutes of charging time and are used mostly in public charging stations.

In addition to those three types of charging, wireless charging is under development to recharge EVs without a cord via an electro-magnetic field.

Charging times vary greatly depending on the model of electric car, the battery type, its capacity and the charger. It can take as little as 30 minutes and as much as 20 hours. All-electric cars usually have a higher capacity which means it will take longer to recharge them fully.

Most chargers and electric vehicles have standard connectors and receptacles nowadays, the SAE J1772, a North American standard that was later adopted as the international norm. Vehicles with a SAE J1772 can use any Level 1 or Level 2 charging point. It is supported by major electric vehicle makes and charging system manufacturers which means that you will encounter little problems of compatibility when out and about.

Unfortunately, DC fast chargers don’t currently have a standard connector. SAE International, the organisation setting standards, has implemented one for fast charging by adding a DC power contact pin to the SAE J1772 connector used for Levels 1 and 2, but it is only available on very few models such as the Chevrolet Spark. Other electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV use a fast-charge connector called CHAdeMO while Tesla’s Supercharger system is only compatible with their own cars. Fortunately, charging outlets are increasingly equipping their stations with both SAE and CHAdeMO fast-charging connectors, and Tesla vehicles can use CHAdeMO connectors through an adapter, offering some compromise.

Whether you are a purist and loathe anything that doesn’t spew carbon dioxide, or are an environmentally friendly car owner, we can assist you if you need a trustworthy international car shipping company and we can make transporting your car a stress-free process thanks to over two decades’ experience. If you want to find out more, call us on +64 9 303 0075 or send us an email. You can even request a quote online.

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