Electric Cars Definition, Principles, Types, Potentials and Explained

Electric Cars represent a major move towards achieving sustainable development, which is is the future of our modern society. You may however ask the question; What is the Future of Electric cars?

In this article, several important aspects of the subject of electric cars, will be discussed. These are as outlined below;

1). What are Electric Cars?

2). Other Types of Vehicles

3). Comparison between Electric and Gasoline Cars

4). How Electric Cars work

5). Types of Electric Cars

6). Components of an Electric Car

7). What is the Future? Predicting the Future of Electric Cars


What is an Electric Car?

Battery-electric vehicles, All-electric vehicles (EVs), or Electric cars, as they may alternatively be called, are automobile vehicles which are powered by electric motors in place of an internal combustion engine; ICE (as is the norm in gasoline vehicles).



Electric cars depend on electricity, which is stored in capacitor batteries. This means that, in contrast to gasoline and other ICE vehicles which require refueling to remain active, electric cars rather require charging, by which electric current is transmitted and stored in the batteries which propel the car.


Other types of Vehicles

In order to fully appraise the nature, components, mechanism and capabilities of electric cars, it is important to understand the nature of other types of vehicles.

Essentially, vehicles can be distinguished into categories based on various factors. These factors include;

1). Size

2). Complexity

3). Purpose

4). Constitution

5). Resilience and Quality

6). Energy Source

Size categorization will define groups like Large, Medium or Intermediate, and Small cars. Complexity will produce categorical ratings such as Simple, Complex, and Highly Complex cars. Purpose will include Heavy-duty, Leisure, Sports, Luxury and Multipurpose cars; and so forth.

In the context of this article, the system of categorization which is used for the cars is the Energy Factor. Based on Energy Source, the following categories of cars can be identified;

1). Hydrogen-fuel cars

2). Gasoline (or ICE) cars

3). Hybrid-electric cars

4). Plug-in Hybrid cars

5). All-electric cars

Among a few others.

The two most distinguishable categories among these which have been listed, are arguably the electric and gasoline cars.

These two categories also represent major milestones in the development of automobile energy systems. Below is a table indicating some essential differences between electric cars and gasoline cars;


Gasoline and Electric Car Comparison

Electric Cars Gasoline Cars
Is propelled by mechanical energy derived from stored electric charges Is propelled by mechanical energy derived from heat of hydrocarbon (fuel) combustion
The engine is mainly constituted by an electric capacitor battery The engine is mainly constituted by an internal combustion system
The internal configuration is relatively simplistic The internal configuration is relatively complex
Is sustained by electric recharging Is sustained by refueling with gasoline
Is relatively new and has a lower level of public awareness Is more common and less recent
Still in its primary stage of development Has undergone several phases of modification and development
Is a more ethical and globally acceptable form of automobile technology Is associated with carbon and greenhouse gas emissions and therefore less acceptable
The electric energy source is currently less efficient and reliable, due to a relatively low energy density (compared to gasoline) Gasoline is a relatively more-reliable and efficient source of energy due to higher energy density
Relatively lower global reach and market share (as of 2021) Relatively higher global reach and market share
Higher purchasing cost Lower purchasing cost
Lower overall maintenance cost Higher overall maintenance cost


Are Electric Cars actually Cheaper than Gasoline cars?

As shown in the table above, while electric cars a more expensive at the purchase level, they may typically incur less cost over their entire lifespan, than gasoline vehicles.

On the average, one kilowatt-hour of electric charge costs $0.13 or £0.10. This can be used to travel an average distance of 4-6 km [10].

On the contrary, one liter of gasoline may cost about $0.55 [15]. It can be used to travel variable distances, depending on the nature of the car and the efficiency of the internal combustion engine. However, it typically ranges between 10-40km.

While this should suggest that the gasoline vehicle is cheaper to run, the overall maintenance cost is usually compounded by typical shortcomings in engine performance. These may often cause a reduced efficiency of fuel combustion as well.

In general, such additional and recurrent costs are not encountered as often in the lifespan of electric vehicles.

How do Electric Cars Work?

The main source of energy which powers and propels the electric car, is stored in its rechargeable batteries.

Basically, the conversion of electric energy to mechanical energy in electric cars, occurs in an electric motor. This electric motor is the essential component of the electric car ‘engine’, serving as a replacement of the internal combustion engine in gasoline cars.

The electric power is transmitted to the electric motor through a controller, which is connected to the rechargeable batteries.

How long does it take to charge an Electric Car?

In contrast to gasoline cars which are recharged at a filling station, electric cars are generally recharged at points simply known as Charging Stations. These charging stations may be mounted either at home, or in public places (as is the case for gasoline filling stations). The process of recharge is very similar to that of any electrical, rechargeable appliance.

charging of an EV
Charging of an Electric Car (Credit: Hirlimann .CC BY-SA 2.0.)


The speed and effectiveness of recharging, for an electric car depends on various factors, such as;

1). The capacity and efficiency of the charger used:

Generally, the capacity of the electric charger determines to a large extent, its speed and effectiveness in supplying power to the electric batteries of EVs.  

There are two main categories of electric car chargers, based on their power supply capacities. These are Level 1 (120 volt), and Level 2 (240 volt) chargers.

2). The capacity of the car battery system:

Types of Electric Car Batteries: How do Electric Car Batteries work?

A variety of designs and constitutions exist for electric car batteries. These include;





-Nickel-metal hydride batteries

The electric car batteries work simply by retaining (storing) electric charges which are then transmitted to the controller when the vehicle is being used.

The capacity of the electric battery can be as low as 17KWh, or as high as 100KWh. This invariably determines how consistently and efficiently the car can been used. For example, the Tesla Model X and Model S, can both run up to 250-300 miles on a single recharge; while the Smart EQ ForTwo may reach a distance of 70-160km on a full charge.

* Types of Electric Cars

Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs)

These vehicles are simply those whose sole source of power is the rechargeable battery. As a result of this, they are the most representative, typical category of electric cars. The entire energy supply for BEVs is derived from the battery system.

A major advantage of the battery electric vehicles is the fact that they do not produce any carbon or GHG emissions at all.

They also have no exhaust or tailpipe system, since they do not interact with gasoline or any other hydrocarbon. A very popular example of the BEV is the Tesla brand.

Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs)

The hybrid electric vehicles are similar to battery electric vehicles by possessing an electric capacitor battery system. However, they are unique in the sense that these vehicles are composed of a combination of gasoline and electric car characteristics.

This means that the vehicle comprises an electric battery and an engine. However, in contrast to the typical BEV which uses a charging station to refill its batteries, the HEV makes use of a mechanism called Regenerative Braking, to power its batteries.

Regenerative Braking is essentially a mechanism by which energy is recovered when a mobile body slows down. This recovery occurs in form of a conversion, of kinetic energy into a storable form of energy.

In electric cars, the regenerative braking mechanism involves the conversion of kinetic to electric energy by the electric traction motor, which also transmits this energy to the battery where it is stored.  

In more conventional vehicles, the kinetic energy which would otherwise be stored in the battery, is rather lost as heat (due to friction) which dissipates from the discs of the braking system.

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)

The Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles can be viewed as an improvement of the Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs). This is because, while they possess both electric battery and internal combustion engine, unlike HEVs, the PHEVs can be recharged at a charging station.

How are PHEVs Different from Regular HEVs?

In essence, PHEVs may be said to have combined the most basic qualities of gasoline cars and electric cars. They have larger-capacity battery systems than the HEVs and their compatibility with the electric grid implies that they may travel longer distances, typically, than the regular hybrids as well.

* Components of an Electric Car

The key components that make up a typical electric car, are as follows;

1). Electric Traction Motor

The key role of the electric traction motor is to move the wheels of the vehicle. The source of energy for this locomotion may be either solely derived from the electric battery system, or may include the regeneration brake system.

2). Traction Battery Pack

The main role of this component, is to store electric energy that will be harnessed by the traction motor to propel the vehicle.

3). Electric Transmission System

The electric transmission system basically functions as a medium of transition of mechanical energy to the vehicular wheels, from the electric traction motor.

4). Controller

The controller functions as an energy management unit. It ensures that the traction battery transmits energy to the traction motor, in a well-gauged and conservative manner, thereby minimizing torque effects.

5). DC-DC converter

The function of this component is mainly to convert DC power from a high voltage state to a low voltage state, in order for it to be transmitted to smaller accessory components of the vehicle like headlights and auxiliary capacitor systems.

It is often considered to be a part of the onboard charger of the vehicle.

6). Onboard Charger

The onboard charger is another converter unit.

However, contrary to the sole function of the DC-DC converter, it typically converts AC electric current as it is transmitted into the electric circuit from the charging port, into DC which will be used to charge the traction battery system.

7). Charging Port

As is its typical function in other electrical systems, the charging port of electric cars provide a unit by which the vehicle is connected to a charging station to supply electric energy to the batteries.

8). Thermal/Cooling System

The function of this component is to maintain the entire system, including its vital units, in an optimal temperature state.

9). Battery

The battery may function as the sole energy provider or as an auxiliary unit, depending on the overall categorical design of the vehicle. While the All-electric configuration implies that the battery will be a sole provider of energy to all components of the vehicle, the auxiliary configuration (utilized in Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid electrical vehicles) implies that the battery will power mainly the accessory components of the vehicle.


electric car electric vehicle parts of electric car
Parts of an Electric Car (Credit: Howard 2009 .CC BY-SA 2.0.)


Predicting the Future of Electric Cars based on Market Share Analysis

In totality, recent times have seen a notable economic growth for the electric car industry. And there are a number of factors to which this growth can be attributed.

-One of these factors, is the establishment and implementation of subsidy programs by various governments, for the electric car industry [<ahref=”#4″>4]

-The increasing popularity of electric cars (which is significantly driven by their innovative attributes),

-The environmental friendliness of the electric car

– The relatively lower maintenance and operational costs

These factors have collaboratively made electric cars as relevant to the automobile market, as they are today. However, compared to the gasoline car products, electric cars are rather far behind.

By the end of 2020, both all-electric and hybrid plug-in vehicles constituted approximately 1% of the automobile vehicles being used globally [6].

This value still reduces significantly when the focus is narrowed down to all-electric (or battery electric):vehicles.

The Future of EVs: Graphical Illustration of Market Share of Electric Cars as at 2020
The Future of EVs: Graphical Illustration of Market Share of Electric Cars as at 2020


It is speculated that by 2021, the number of electric vehicles being used globally is above 5.6 million, which suggests a significant growth in market share. [9].

Prior to this time, electric vehicles hit a million units in sales by September of 2015 [3], increasing by about 4 million units over the next three years [5]. In 2020, the market share of electric vehicles (all categories) reached over 4.5% in new sales [9]. There has also been an increase in the proportion of all-electric vehicles (BEVs) in the market, in relation to hybrids, with the all-electric vehicles taking up about 69% of the market space in 2020 [13]

What does this Imply to the Future of Electric Cars?

The future of electric cars can be predicted based on the foregoing economic developments, among others. As is clearly indicated, there has been an overall rise in the predominance of electric cars in the automobile market.

Provided the current trend continues, it implies that the future will see more progress, economically, for the sector, with possible dominance of the entire automobile market  .

A very helpful we in which we can assess this prediction is by use of the Theoretical Model of Economic Growth.

This model is a composite of several economic ideologies regarding market dynamics and capitalization. For the electric car industry, the economic growth theory posits that several factors are capable of influencing growth or decline.

What are the factors that Determine the Future of Electric Cars?

These factors include;


– Human Capital

-Entrepreneurs and New Entrants

– Structural Changes

– Political Institutions



In terms of Productivity, the electric car market has equally shown some positive prospects over the past years of its development. This is due to the high quality products which have been developed in the industry, and the increase in ration of output to input.

This ration can be evaluated in terms of the cost of the product and its actual potentials or quality. In general, the energy-conservative, environmentally-friendly nature of electric cars is a huge bonus, making them much worth their cost.

Human Capital is another factor that can be used to predict the future of electric cars.

Adam Smith’s Economic Theory (which is a part of the theoretical model of economic growth) properly conveys the concept behind the term ‘human capital’.

The electric car industry has generally made much effort to attract the best obtainable talent in the fields of engineering and computer science. This provides the industry with high quality in terms of intellectual resources and labor.

Given that this is the case, according to the predictions of economic theories, the industry should expect to grow further in the near future.

New Entrants and Entrepreneurs are not lacking in the electric car industry.

The Chinese revolution of electric cars is a good example. Companies like Evergrande, Huawei, Forward Drive, and Didi are among the recent entrants into the industry. The industry is also host to notable entrepreneurs like Warren Buffett(who is an investor in BYD Automobile Company), and Elon Musk of Tesla Inc.

Structural changes and political institutions can both be analyzed at once. With the growth of the industry, as it spreads across sever continents of the world, some aspects of the supply chain and management systems have continually been subjected to change. Such structural changes can be observed in the raw material supply units, sales and manufacturing methods.

Political influence in the form of regulations and policies for the production and distribution of electric cars have seriously affected the industry, with modifications being made to suit the demands of government in different regions.

This may have varied effects on the industry. However, the effect is generally positive, as it eventually enables electric car products to penetrate a large proportion of the global market.

Customer preferences can be used to predict the future of electric cars as well. There is a high level of interest in electric cars by drivers across the world. In the US, for example, up to 70% of drivers have indicated interest in using electric cars in the near future [11].

This interest is largely influenced by some of the benefits of electric cars, including ease of maintenance, lower costs of operation, and elimination or reduction of expenses on gasoline.


Will everyone be using an Electric Car in the near Future?

While this article has indicated that the electric car industry has a bright future with huge potentials, there are several considerations to be made when predicting how widespread the usage of electric cars in the near future will be.

Presently, electric cars are not evenly distributed across the globe. In regions like Africa, India and the Middle East, the future of electric cars is dependent on economic restructuring, increased awareness, infrastructural development and industrial growth.

Such factors should affect the cost of production, feasibility of usage, and cost of purchase and maintenance, all in a positive way.

What this implies is that electric cars are bound to become a dominant part of technology, economy and the society as a whole.

However, the rate at which these products may become accessible will be determined by all other factors that make up and control the modern society.



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