If you’re in search of an electric car, or just curious about the mechanics behind the technology, this guide might just be for you. Many understand that an electric car is battery-powered, but most consumers don’t quite know the ins and outs of how it all works. 


From the battery to the charging port and regenerative braking system, there’s a lot that goes into the building of an electric vehicle (EV). So, how do electric cars work exactly and what are the top reasons to buy an EV?


In this guide, we’ll detail how exactly electric cars work, including a simple diagram of the most important components. Get ready to rev your engines as we dive into everything you need to know about how electric cars work and whether they require oil.

What Is an Electric Car?

An electric car, also known as an electric vehicle (EV) or battery electric vehicle (BEV), has an electric motor instead of an internal combustion engine. Unlike traditional vehicles that use an internal combustion engine, electric cars use an electric motor powered by electricity from batteries.


There are a couple of different types of electric cars, which include:

  • All-electric: All-electric cars are powered solely by a battery and don’t use gasoline. 
  • Hybrid electric: Hybrid cars are powered by both electricity and gasoline. 

How Do Electric Cars Work?

Electric cars work by drawing electricity from a power source and storing it in a battery. This is done by plugging an electric car into a charging point, where the battery can fully charge. The battery then powers the motor, which controls the wheels. While driving, the battery provides energy to the electric motor which replaces the need for a gas engine. Because it runs on electricity, the vehicle emits no exhaust and does not contain the typical fuel components such as a fuel pump, fuel line, or fuel tank.


Most electric cars use this single-gear technology to move the wheels, so there’s no need for a transmission. That said, some newer EVs are being built with additional gears, which allow the cars to achieve better performance and a longer range but require a transmission.

How Does An Electric Car Battery Work?

Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) use electricity stored in a battery pack to power the motor.

The most common type of battery used is the lithium-ion battery. Lithium-ion batteries have a high power-to-weight ratio, which means the batteries hold a lot of energy for their weight. This is essential for electric cars as less weight means the car can travel further on a single charge. Additionally, lithium-ion batteries can maintain the ability to hold a full charge over time. This ensures the longevity of the battery. It’s key to note that electric cars all feature different charge ranges and charge speeds. 


When depleted, electric car batteries are recharged using grid electricity. This can be from a home wall socket or a public charging station. Most lithium-ion battery parts are recyclable after their life, making them a good choice for combating environmental damage.

How Does An Electric Car Motor Work?

An electric car motor works by mounting one set of magnets to a shaft and another set to a housing that surrounds the shaft. By periodically reversing the polarity, the EV motor leverages these attracting and repelling forces to rotate the shaft. This converts the electricity into torque and, ultimately, turns the wheels. 

Diagram of An Electric Vehicle

When it comes to how an electric car works, it can be helpful to view a simple diagram of the main internal components. The diagram shown below shows the components that make an electric car run, including the battery, battery pack, motor, and charge port.



Before buying an electric car, it’s good to know the essential parts that make it work. The key components of an EV include: 

  • Battery: In an electric car, the battery stores electricity in a battery pack to power the motor and other vehicle accessories.
  • Charge port: The charge port allows the vehicle to connect to an external power supply to charge the battery pack.
  • DC/DC converter: This device converts higher-voltage DC power from the traction battery pack to the lower-voltage DC power needed to run vehicle accessories and recharge the auxiliary battery.
  • Electric motor: Using power from the battery pack, the motor converts electricity into torque and turns the wheels. 
  • Onboard charger: The On-board Charger (OBC) is used to convert Alternating Current (AC) from slow chargers or portable chargers used on home outlets into Direct Current (DC).
  • Electric power-controlled unit: The Electric Power Control Unit (EPCU) is an efficient integration of nearly all devices that control the flow of the electric power in the vehicle. It consists of the inverter, the Low voltage DC-DC Converter (LDC), and the Vehicle Control Unit (VCU).
  • Cooling system: The cooling system maintains a suitable operating temperature for the electric motor, engine, and other components.
  • Traction battery pack: Stores electricity for use by the electric traction motor.
  • Transmission: The transmission transfers mechanical power from the electric traction motor to drive the wheels, though not all electric cars have a transmission.

How Do Electric Cars Charge?

To charge an electric car, you need to plug it into a charger connected to the electric grid. Charging happens through the car's charging port located on the outside of the vehicle. But when it comes to some of the most common questions around electric car charging, such as “How long does it take to charge an electric car?” and “Can you charge an electric car at home?”, there are a lot of unanswered questions. 


These answers can be explained by looking at the different levels of charging equipment. There are three levels of electric car charging which inform the charging speeds and equipment needed.

Level 1 

Mile range: Approximately 5 miles of range per 1 hour of charging

Connector: J1772 connector


Level one charging is the most common, and almost all electric cars come with a compatible cord set. Level one charging uses a 120-volt plug and a standard outlet. It requires no special equipment and is typically done at home, though it can quickly provide charging for most of your driving needs. Level one chargers take the longest time to charge your electric vehicle, averaging about three to five miles per hour of charge.

Level 2 

Mile range: Approximately 25 miles of range per 1 hour of charging

Connectors: J1772 connector and Tesla connector


Level two chargers are much faster than level one, offering up to 60 miles of range per hour of charge. Level two charging is also typical for home charging. In fact, because Level two equipment can charge a standard electric car battery overnight, owners commonly choose level two over level one. It is also widely used for public and workplace charging. Level two charging uses a 240-volt plug and typically needs to be installed by an electrician. Many electric car automakers provide purchase options for level two at the time of vehicle purchase.

Level 3

Mile range: Approximately 100 to 200+ miles of range per 30 minutes of charging

Connectors: CCS connector, CHAdeMO connector, and Tesla connector


Level three is commonly known as DC fast charging. These are the commercial charging stations you’ll see in parking lots and around town. Level three charging can deliver up to 100 miles of power in about 20 minutes of charging. It’s essential to note that level three charging isn’t compatible with all electric vehicles, only those with SAE Combined Charging System (CCS), CHAdeMO, and Tesla charging ports. 

Categories: Electric Vehicles

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