Battery-electric cars don’t use any gasoline, but instead run solely on electricity stored in a battery pack that energizes one or more electric motors and produces zero tailpipe emissions. These cars can be charged most anywhere, anytime and usually at a much lower cost than fueling with gasoline. Their driving ranges on a full charge vary widely from about 100 to more than 500 miles, with considerably higher ranged electric cars coming soon.
How They Work
Currently, most electric cars are powered by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that are compact and have a very high energy density. They are charged primarily by an external electricity source, which can be as simple as a standard 120-volt outlet. The onboard charger takes the incoming alternating current (AC) electricity and converts it to direct current (DC) power for charging the main battery. The power is delivered to what is called the electric traction motor that drives the car’s wheels. A variety of sophisticated electronic components are involved in the process.
- Onboard Charger – Converts incoming AC electricity to DC power for charging the battery
- Charge Port – Enables the car to be plugged in to an external power source to charge the battery
- Electric Motor – Powered from the battery, the electric motor propels the car at all times
- Battery – Typically positioned below the seats for better weight distribution, these batteries can be as large as 100kWh and power the electric motor
Electric cars are powerful, with quick acceleration, great torque and a quiet drive.
Electric cars are eligible for a variety of federal, state and local incentives, such as the Clean Air Vehicle decal, California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Project and programs to support clean transportation ownership in low-income and disadvantage communities. To find incentives in your region, visit incentive search.
A comprehensive listing of electric car models currently available in California, including incentives.
Plug-in Electric Vehicle Handbook (U.S. DOE)
A plug-in electric vehicle handbook that answers basic questions and points readers to additional information to make the best vehicle selection.
California’s Advanced Clean Cars Program (CARB)
Understand how California’s emission rules for cars and trucks will help clean the air, abate climate change and provide cars that save consumers money at the pump.