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What is an electric car and how does it work?

What they’re like to drive, what’s under the hood, and how much it costs, find out everything you need to know about electric cars with WorkMoney

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You’ve probably been hearing a lot about electric cars. In addition to being sleek and modern, lots of the talking heads on TV are touting them as key players in the fight against climate change. 

But what exactly is an electric car, and how does it work? 

A little bit of the science behind electric cars

Electric cars, or EVs (Electric Vehicles), are powered by an electric motor instead of a gasoline engine. The motor gets its power from a controller, which receives energy from a rechargeable battery. This means no gas, no oil changes, and no exhaust fumes. It’s a complete shift from what we’ve known about cars for over a century.

A little bit more science

The electric motor in an EV uses the principle of electromagnetism to generate motion. When electricity is supplied to the motor, it creates a magnetic field that drives the motion of the motor’s shaft. This motion is then transferred to the wheels, propelling the car forward. It’s a seamless process that delivers smooth acceleration and a quiet ride.

Ok, enough science. What are they like to drive?

Driving an EV is almost exactly the same as driving a gas-powered car. There’s still a gear shift, a steering wheel, an accelerator pedal, and a brake. There are two (sometimes three) big differences, though:

  • EVs are way quieter. Because the motor is electric, you won’t hear that same roar when you press on the accelerator (can’t call it the “gas” when it’s an EV!) Great news if you’re trying to have a conversation or you just want to listen to your favorite music without having to crank up the volume.
  • Speaking of stepping on the accelerator…a lot of EVs get fast REAL fast. Because the engine doesn’t need to rev up, if you floor it, you really floor it.
  • Some, but not all, EVs, have what’s called “one-pedal driving.” These cars still have a brake pedal, but when you take your foot off the accelerator the car immediately starts to slow down, instead of coasting like a gas-powered vehicle would. The brake pedal is still there if you need to stop quickly, but if you want to gradually slow to a stop, you can just take your foot off the accelerator.

How do you refuel an EV?

One of the biggest perks of owning an electric car is the ability to refuel right at home. You can charge your EV at home in your garage or driveway, just like you’d charge your smartphone. It’s as simple as plugging it in before you hit the sack and waking up to a fully charged car. There are also an increasing number of charging stations out on the road, so you can refuel the car on the go, whether that means you’re doing some grocery shopping or going on a road trip.

There are three kinds of EV chargers you should know about:

  • Level 1 chargers, also called “trickle chargers” because they’re the slowest of all the chargers, use the regular 110-volt outlets you have in your home. These are the easiest and the cheapest option, but, if you need to charge up fast, they are not the best option for you.
  • Level 2 chargers are faster and you can install one in your home, but it will cost you. The charger itself is several hundred dollars and you’ll also have to hire a licensed electrician to install it for you. That said, there are plenty of state-specific incentives to help with the cost. There are also plenty of level 2 charging options at public charging stations across the country.
  • Level 3 chargers are the fastest chargers out there, but they’re currently only available at public charging stations. You can’t install one of these chargers in your home, but if you find one while you’re driving and your battery is running low, then you’re in luck! Generally speaking, one of these chargers can get your battery from 0 to 80% (which means hundreds of miles of driving) in around 30 minutes.

The U.S. Department of Energy offers a searchable tool to help you find electric charging stations near you. All you have to do is enter your location or where you’ll be traveling and choose a few other factors to find an EV station where you can power up. 

But it’s worth repeating: The vast majority of the time EV drivers charge their cars at home, in their garages or driveways.

Maintenance: How do you take care of an EV and what will it cost?

OK, so we know that with an EV we’re not making regular trips to the gas station, but what about the mechanic?

Great news! Because there are far fewer moving parts, typically an EV requires a lot less maintenance than a gas-powered vehicle. No oil changes (because there’s no oil), no annual emissions inspections (because there are no emissions), and generally far, far fewer trips to the mechanic to fix issues with the car.

That’s a major savings both in dollars, but also in time!

The green machine: environmental impact

Electric cars produce zero tailpipe emissions, reducing air pollution and helping us breathe easier. The Environmental Defense Fund says that even a medium-sized EV puts out up to 68% fewer greenhouse gases than a gasoline-powered car over its lifetime. 

Plus, as more of our electricity comes from renewable sources, the environmental benefits of EVs will only increase. It’s a win for you and a win for our planet.

The bottom line: cost savings

Now, let’s talk about what’s really on your mind: the cost.

The upfront cost is definitely higher, but savings over time can more than make up for it. When you drive an EV, you spend around $1.22 to go the same distance as a regular car on a gallon of gasoline. The last time a gallon of gas was that cheap was more than 20 years ago

Think about it: no more money spent on gas, fewer maintenance costs, and in some places, you can even get tax credits for going electric. It’s like your car is paying you back!

WorkMoney partner, Zappyride, can help you see how much you can save with an EV and what rebates, credits, and incentives are available to you. Incentives are personalized for where you live.

See your potential EV savings

Making the switch: Is an electric car right for you?

Switching to an electric car is a big decision, and it’s not for everyone. But if you’re looking for a way to reduce your carbon footprint, save money in the long run, and embrace the future of transportation, an electric car could be just the ticket. Do your research, weigh the pros and cons, and make the choice that’s right for you.

Powering up your future with electric cars and smart finances

Remember, the future is electric, and it’s brighter than ever. So why not take a test drive and see what all the fuss is about? You might just find that an electric car is the perfect fit for your lifestyle and your wallet.

And while you’re making smart choices about your future, why not take control of your financial health too? At WorkMoney, we’re all about helping you make decisions that put money back in your pocket. From finding discounts on everyday expenses to advocating for policies that benefit you, we’re here to help you afford the life you deserve. 

Join us today and take control of your money. The future is in your hands, and it’s electric!