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How do battery electric vehicles work?

(NC) Imagine driving a vehicle with a zero-emission motor that gets you where you want to go without spewing a single gram of carbon dioxide. Such is the allure of a battery electric vehicle, or BEV, an increasingly popular alternative to traditional gasoline-powered vehicles.

As automakers respond to more stringent greenhouse gas regulations, BEV technologies are becoming more available to consumers. After more than a century of driving gas-guzzling vehicles of all shapes and sizes, the idea of driving electric vehicles is definitely worth considering.

But how do BEVs actually work?

BEVs use an electric propulsion system for all phases of driving. 100 per cent of their propulsion comes from a zero-emission electric motor, powered by electricity from large on-board battery packs that can be recharged in your garage or driveway from the electric power grid or an external source.

Electric drives are also substantially more efficient than combustion engines and drivetrains. According to Natural Resources Canada, the energy conversion efficiency from on-board storage to turning the wheels is nearly three times greater for battery electric vehicles compared to conventional gasoline vehicles.

There are some additional factors to consider when purchasing a BEV. The battery packs are expensive and store a relatively small amount of energy, which limits driving range. Range can also be influenced by outdoor temperatures, speed, driving style, cargo and the type of terrain you're driving over.

Also, BEV's need a charging infrastructure. Although standard 120 volt home outlets will work, a fully depleted battery will require a charge time of between eight and 16 hours. Although for many commuters who travel less than about 100 kilometres a day, a fully depleted battery would never occur. A 240 volt home charging station can be installed at your home to reduce the charge times to between four to eight hours. but commercial charging stations that operate at much higher voltages can further reduce the charge time to between about 30 minutes. Industry is also working to improve battery technology and install a widespread commercial charging or battery swapping mechanism.

Consider a BEV if you're looking for a fuel-efficient vehicle that can reduce fuel costs and reduce CO2 emissions, but don't forget that you'll need access to charging. You'll also need to assess your driving habits and decide whether the reduced BEV range will be a limitation for you. A great source for information on BEVs is the Natural Resources Canada website, which you can find at http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/alternative-fuels/fuel-facts/electric/3551.

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