Electric car: operation, advantages, problems

Batteries, a simple motor, an electronic calculator: an electric car consists of far fewer elements than a conventional thermal model. But the devil is in the details of its energy management.

Beneath an appearance sometimes identical to that of a classic thermal car, an electric car embeds much more limited technical elements. Goodbye tank, combustion engine, transmission and exhaust system, Make room for a large battery, an electric motor and a special computer to manage it all. This allows electric models whose design is dedicated to this energy to adopt a so-called “skateboard” platform, which includes a battery bed under the passenger compartment, a small electric motor in the front or rear (or even two to drive all wheels), and wheels on all four corners. The designers are then free to define a futuristic or classic body and to make optimal use of the space thus gained.

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The battery is normally a lithium-ion battery whose capacity is specified in kWh, usually between 30 and 90 kWh depending on the model. The larger the battery (with a high number of cells), the more it can offer the car a generous autonomy. That Consumption is simply counted in kWh/100 km. The battery is also the heaviest (several hundred kilos) and most expensive element of an electric car. It is necessary to distinguish its useful capacity (the actual maximum load it accepts in order to maintain its longevity) from its rated capacity, which is always higher. That The charging speed depends on the capacity of the converter installed in the car, or the compatibility of the battery with direct current fast charging for the most efficient: the higher the flow rate in kW, the faster the “full” is done. The fastest can win back several hundred kilometers in 30 minutes.

To power the car, we make a distinction three main types of electric motors, all with excellent efficiency of around 90%, up to three times that of a heat engine: permanent magnets (most common), asynchronous, synchronous. They share their two basic elements, a static cylinder that integrates electromagnetic coils, the stator, around a moving rotating element, the rotor. They dispense with a gearbox and settle for a reduction gear to transmit the torque to the wheels at the output of the engine. They are reversible and can take advantage of any delay to regenerate the energy supplied and feed the battery. The energy efficiency of the operation of the whole depends heavily on the quality of its electronic management or BEV (Battery Energy Management), a crucial point that Tesla has mastered particularly well, with longer experience than its competitors. But the dozens of electric cars hitting the market are offering ever higher returns to enhance their sacrosanct autonomy.


  • Zero emissions: When driving, an electric motor produces absolutely no pollutant emissions. The only flaw, the greater mass of electric cars causes the release of more particulate matter (tires, brakes)
  • Quiet operation: With absolute silence, even a slight whistle on some models, the road is quiet. At low speeds, the regulations now prescribe an acoustic signal so as not to startle pedestrians
  • Driving pleasure: Because engine torque is immediately available, electric cars offer very lively acceleration, sporty even for the fittest. Without a gearbox, with a strong deceleration when lifting the foot, the electric is particularly comfortable in the city
  • Access to all FEZ: if you say zero emissions, you say zero restrictions. Electric cars are of course allowed in limited areas downtown
  • Economy of use: Nightly charging at home costs an average of 4 euros for a small electric car
  • Reliability: The simplicity of an electric motor exposes it to much less risk of failure and its maintenance is greatly simplified


  • Limited autonomy: depending on battery size, driving style, temperature and road conditions, consumption can skyrocket. On the highway, for example, a Renault Zoe manages around 200 km, while on the road it manages 300 km.
  • Loading time: between the limits of the terminals and those of the car, the maximum charging power may be limited. A Zoe can claim between 1h10 on a fast terminal and… 34h on a socket
  • charging network: Neither harmonious nor reliable, the charging network remains the weak point of electric life
  • Purchase price : Batteries are expensive and this is reflected in the purchase price of electric vehicles. Fortunately, some models like the Dacia Spring are more accessible (€12,403 bonus deducted)
  • Battery aging: As with a smartphone, the battery loses capacity over time

=> How long is the service life of an electric vehicle?

What’s the use? Which profile?

To get straight to the point, the electric car is not suitable for all automotive purposes. Even if the electric ones are capable of it, long journeys are not their forte and consumption on the motorway is very high. On the other hand, the city is their kingdom, because that’s where their eco-friendly driving comes into its own, they drive there very pleasantly, cause no noise pollution and they also find the best autonomy there thanks to energy recovery during braking. However, the paradox is that city dwellers, who mostly live in apartments, rarely benefit from an available outlet. It’s possible to install one in your parking lot, it’s even a right, but it’s complicated sometimes. The question to ask yourself before choosing an electric car is therefore the question of daily use. Home-work journeys of a few tens of kilometers, with a terminal for charging in the company? Here’s a full chart. And for the long annual trip to the summer holidays, nothing stands in the way of renting a more suitable and spacious thermomobile, the calculation can prove to be profitable. Some manufacturers (e.g. Fiat) even offer this option.

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