5 quick facts about electric cars that you might not know

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While interest in electric vehicles (EVs) is growing here in South Africa – there are a few things you might not yet know about this flavour of automobiles.

AutoTrader CEO George Mienie has been running an all-electric Jaguar I-Pace as his daily car for nearly a year. He says consumer education is becoming increasingly important as the shift towards electromobility gathers pace.

OPINION | Living with an electric vehicle in SA: How much driving range does an EV need?

Mienie says: "Having the opportunity to gain significant first-hand experience of living with a fully battery-powered car – and chatting to ordinary South Africans about that experience – has revealed there are differences between EVs and internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles that the buying public might not be fully aware of yet."

So, let's take a closer look at five things you might not know about electric cars.

George Mienie, jaguar i-pace, ev
Autotrader CEO George Mienie with his Jaguar I-Pace

1. Most EVs run on specific tyres

EVs use the same tyres as their petrol- or diesel-powered counterparts, right? Nope, most don't, as battery-powered vehicles generally require EV-specific rubber. 

Typically, EV tyres boast lower rolling resistance (to increase range), specific tread patterns and compounds (to handle the electric motor's instant torque delivery), and a higher load-bearing capacity (to account for the added weight of battery packs).

2. Decelerating (single pedal driving) actually boosts range

The act of deceleration tends to extend an EV's range. It's a little counterintuitive, isn't it? But thanks to the existence of regenerative braking – an energy recovery system that redirects what would otherwise be lost kinetic energy back into the battery during deceleration phases (triggered by either lifting off the accelerator or touching the brakes) – slowing down actually charges the battery, boosting overall range. This is what makes EVs especially well suited to stop-start city driving.

3. EVs require less maintenance than ICE vehicles

An electric car's powertrain is typically less complex than a petrol or diesel engine as it comprises far fewer moving parts. As such, the electric motor and battery require little to no regular maintenance, with no oil, spark plugs, or fuel filters to change, for instance. 

Furthermore, since the regenerative braking system allows single-pedal driving, EVs are far lighter on traditional friction braking components (brake pads), meaning both discs and pads tend to last longer.

4. EVs are far more efficient than ICE vehicles

Electric cars feature far lower energy conversion losses than traditional ICE vehicles. 

While converting chemical energy from fossil fuel (via combustion) into motive force results in a great deal of energy loss (largely as heat), the process of converting chemical energy stored in an EV's battery is almost three times more efficient.

5. EVs date back to the 1800s

Think electric cars are a recent innovation? Think again! Though obviously rudimentary compared to modern examples, the first EVs date all the way back to the 1800s, meaning this type of vehicle actually predates petrol-powered automobiles.

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