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Electric Vehicle 101: Introduction to Cars of the Future

Oct 05, 2022

Electric devices have long been an essential part of our lives, and now electric vehicles (EVs) are on the rise. In the Philippines, we have e-jeepneys, e-trikes and, soon, e-buses. This futuristic innovation used to be seen only in sci-fi movies is not growing in popularity, set to become a game changer in the automotive industry that we’ve only been seeing in sci-fi movies in the past is now growing in popularity, set to become a game changer in automotive technology. 

As the name suggests, EVs are powered by electricity rather than petroleum-based fuels. Its technology revolves around the concept of taking electricity from the grid and stored in rechargeable batteries, usually located on the chassis of the vehicle. From here, the electric power will activate the electric motor(s) connected to the wheels and push the car forward. 

But not every EV is created equal. There are several types available in the market today, which all work a little differently from each other.

Types of electric vehicles

Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) – The most common type of EVs we’re familiar with so far today is the hybrid type. An HEV still uses a combustion engine but combines its power with an electric motor. Its power source is petrol or diesel, and its battery cannot be charged up via an external power source.

Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle (PHEV) – A PHEV is driven by electric and petroleum powers and has a longer range in electric mode and better fuel efficiency. A PHEV is different from the HEV because it can be plugged into an external power source to charge the battery.

Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) – A BEV is 100% powered by electricity. It uses a battery pack to store and channel power towards an electric motor. The battery’s capacity determines how far the car can go on a single charge.

The tech behind electric vehicles

So, how does an EV work? Let’s dive deeper into the different technologies that give EVs power and brains.

Charging technology

With gas-powered cars, you fill up the tank and go. With an EV, you recharge it via charging stations with different charging technologies to power your vehicle. Think of an electric vehicle like a smartphone, which can be plugged into an outlet. 

But unlike cars that run on gas, EVs can take a long time before they get fully charged. Here’s where DC fast-charging (DCFC) stations come in to tackle the pain point; they can charge an EV battery up to 80% in about 30 minutes, benefiting long journeys by reducing charging times during a trip. 

Today, we can already see some progress with faster charging technologies such as wireless charging. Wireless charging for EVs works the same way as for smartphones, using inductive charging technology that transfers electricity from the magnetic coil in the charger to a magnetic coil or pad fitted to the car. Once the technology becomes available in the market, wireless charging can be a public charging solution that will allow multiple EVs to recharge at once and without driveways. 

Another breakthrough in charging technologies is bidirectional charging, allowing energy to flow both ways: from the grid to your car and from the car to the grid or to your home. EV users can take advantage of this technology to save or make money by selling excess energy to the grid, leveraging time-of-use energy rates, and even creating an emergency energy supply during power shortages. That said, bidirectional charging turns EV batteries into energy storage points, enabling them to do much more than just move vehicles and turning EV users into “prosumers”—providers and consumers—of electricity. 

Battery technology

The battery pack or traction battery is basically the fuel tank of an EV, made up of groups of lithium-ion batteries or cells. Its capacity, measured in kilowatt-hours, determine how much energy it can store. The higher the capacity, the more energy your EV can store and the farther it can get you on a single charge. 

The good news is that carmakers are developing several types of batteries, such as solid-state and organic, offering more capacity and shorter recharge times. These developments can give a massive boost to the EV industry. 

Infrastructure technology 

The development of infrastructure for EVs is crucial to accommodating the expected number of electric cars that will be on the road within the next few years. Many apps currently on the market can help you locate the nearest plug-in commercial charging stations to take away some of the concerns about range anxiety. Charging stations are also increasingly offering more rapid-charging options as EV adoption becomes more mainstream. 

But here’s the next big thing: electrified roads. There are three power delivery types for dynamic charging that power EVs while they are in motion: overhead power lines, ground level power through rail, or induction. On a road trip sometime in the future, EV users will be able to drive on a road that constantly supplies electric power to their vehicles. Once electrified roads become the norm, the concerns about EV’s range or finding fast-charging stations will be a thing of the past.

Self-driving car

Another technology that’s often associated with EVs is self-driving tech. Fully autonomous vehicles or driverless cars are expected to offer more convenience to commute, discourage dangerous driver behaviors, and reduce traffic congestion. 

While many self-driving cars still require human supervision, many EVs now come with an advanced driver assistance feature that handles steering and maintains a fixed distance and speed behind a lead car to make long drives less stressful for drivers. However, this feature normally operates only under a certain speed limit and on properly marked roads. That said, it is only intended to assist human drivers for now rather than fully operate the vehicle by itself. 

Electric vehicles are the future. As technology continues to evolve, it’s not impossible to see EVs and driverless cars becoming more mainstream soon, transporting us to a real futuristic era—we haven’t even talked about flying cars yet!