Electric car

An electric car is an automobile that is propelled by one or more electric motors, using energy stored in rechargeable batteries. The first practical electric cars were produced in the 1880s.[1] Electric cars were popular in the late 19th century and early 20th century, until advances in internal combustion engines, electric starters in particular, and mass production of cheaper gasoline vehicles led to a decline in the use of electric drive vehicles.

Modern all-electric cars
BMW i3 charging on the street

From 2008, a renaissance in electric vehicle manufacturing occurred due to advances in batteries, and the desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.[2] Several national and local governments have established government incentives for plug-in electric vehicles, tax credits, subsidies, and other incentives to promote the introduction and adoption in the mass market of new electric vehicles, often depending on battery size, their electric range and purchase price. The current maximum tax credit allowed by the US Government is US$7,500 per car.[3] Compared with internal combustion engine cars, electric cars are quieter, have no tailpipe emissions, and lower emissions in general.[4] In January 2019 and updated in April, a Reuters analysis of 29 global automakers concluded that automakers are planning on spending $300 billion over next 5 to 10 years on electric cars, with 45% of that in China.[5]

Charging an electric car can be done at a variety of charging stations, these charging stations can be installed in both houses and public areas.[6] The Tesla Model 3 was the world's best selling EV from 2018 to 2019 and had a maximum electric range of 500 km (310 miles) according to the EPA.[7][8][9]

As of December 2018, there were about 5.3 million light-duty all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles in use around the world.[10] Despite the rapid growth experienced, the global stock of plug-in electric cars represented just about 1 out of every 250 vehicles (0.40%) on the world's roads by the end of 2018.[11] The plug-in car market is shifting towards fully electric battery vehicles, as the global ratio between annual sales of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) went from 56:44 in 2012, to 60:40 in 2015, and rose to 69:31 in 2018.[12][13]


Electric cars are a variety of electric vehicle (EV). The term "electric vehicle" refers to any vehicle that uses electric motors for propulsion, while "electric car" generally refers to highway-capable automobiles powered by electricity. Low-speed electric vehicles, classified as NEVs in the United States,[14] and as electric motorised quadricycles in Europe,[15] are plug-in electric-powered microcars or city cars with limitations in terms of weight, power and maximum speed that are allowed to travel on public roads and city streets up to a certain posted speed limit, which varies by country.

While an electric car's power source is not explicitly an on-board battery, electric cars with motors powered by other energy sources are typically referred to by a different name. An electric car carrying solar panels to power it is a solar car, and an electric car powered by a gasoline generator is a form of hybrid car. Thus, an electric car that derives its power from an on-board battery pack is a form of battery electric vehicle (BEV). Most often, the term "electric car" is used to refer to battery electric vehicles, but may also refer to plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV).


The invention of the first model electric predecessor vehicle is attributed to various people.[17] In 1828, the Hungarian Ányos Jedlik invented an early type of electric motor, and created a small model car powered by his new motor. Between 1832 and 1839, the Scot Robert Anderson built a crude electric-powered carriage, powered by non-rechargeable primary power cells.[18] In 1834, Vermont blacksmith Thomas Davenport built a similar contraption which operated on a short, circular, electrified track.[19] In the same year, Professor Sibrandus Stratingh of Groningen, the Netherlands and his assistant Christopher Becker from Germany created a small-scale electric car, powered by non-rechargeable primary cells.[20]

Other prototypes of electric cars were probably built before, but it was not until the batteries were improved by French inventors Gaston Planté (in 1865) and Camille Faure (in 1881) that electric cars really took off.[21]

In November 1881, Gustave Trouvé presented an electric car at the Exposition internationale d'Électricité de Paris.[22]

In 1884, over 20 years before the Ford Model T, Thomas Parker built a practical production electric car in London using his own specially designed high-capacity rechargeable batteries.[23][24][25] The Flocken Elektrowagen of 1888 was designed by German inventor Andreas Flocken.[26] Electric cars were among the preferred methods for automobile propulsion in the late 19th century and early 20th century, providing a level of comfort and ease of operation that could not be achieved by the gasoline cars of the time.[27] The electric vehicle stock peaked at approximately 30,000 vehicles at the turn of the 20th century.[28]

In 1897, electric cars found their first commercial use as taxis in Britain and the US. In London, Walter Bersey’s electric cabs were the first self-propelled vehicles for hire at a time when cabs were horse-drawn.[29] In New York City, a fleet of twelve hansom cabs and one brougham, based on the design of the Electrobat II, were part of a project funded in part by the Electric Storage Battery Company of Philadelphia.[30] During the 20th century, the main manufacturers of electric vehicles in the US were Anthony Electric, Baker, Columbia, Anderson, Edison, Riker, Milburn, Bailey Electric, Detroit Electric and others. Unlike gasoline-powered vehicles, the electric ones were less noisy, and did not require gear changes.[31][32]

Advances in internal combustion engines (ICE) in the first decade of the 20th century lessened the relative advantages of the electric car. Their much quicker refueling times, and cheaper production costs, made them more popular. However, a decisive moment was the introduction in 1912 of the electric starter motor that replaced other, often laborious, methods of starting the ICE, such as hand-cranking.[33]

Six electric cars held the land speed record.[34] The last of them was the rocket-shaped La Jamais Contente, driven by Camille Jenatzy, which broke the 100 km/h (62 mph) speed barrier by reaching a top speed of 105.88 km/h (65.79 mph) on 29 April 1899.

Modern electric cars

The emergence of metal-oxide-semiconductor (MOS) technology led to the development of modern electric road vehicles.[35] The MOSFET (MOS field-effect transistor, or MOS transistor), invented by Mohamed M. Atalla and Dawon Kahng at Bell Labs in 1959,[36][37] led to the development of the power MOSFET by Hitachi in 1969,[38] and the single-chip microprocessor by Federico Faggin, Marcian Hoff, Masatoshi Shima and Stanley Mazor at Intel in 1971.[39] The power MOSFET and the microcontroller, a type of single-chip microprocessor, led to significant advances in electric automobile technology. MOSFET power converters allowed operation at much higher switching frequencies, made it easier to drive, reduced power losses, and significantly reduced prices, while single-chip microcontrollers could manage all aspects of the drive control and had the capacity for battery management.[35] Another important technology that enabled modern highway-capable electric cars is the lithium-ion battery,[40] invented by John Goodenough, Rachid Yazami and Akira Yoshino in the 1980s,[41] which was responsible for the development of electric cars capable of long-distance travel.[40]

In the early 1990s, CARB began a push for more fuel-efficient, lower-emissions vehicles, with the ultimate goal being a move to zero-emissions vehicles such as electric vehicles.[42][43] In response, automakers developed electric models, including the Chrysler TEVan, Ford Ranger EV pickup truck, GM EV1, and S10 EV pickup, Honda EV Plus hatchback, Nissan Altra EV miniwagon, and Toyota RAV4 EV. Both US Electricar and Solectria produced 3-phase AC Geo-bodied electric cars with the support of GM, Hughes, and Delco. These early cars were eventually withdrawn from the U.S. market.[44]

California electric automaker Tesla Motors began development in 2004 on what would become the Tesla Roadster (2008), which was first delivered to customers in 2008. The Roadster was the first highway legal serial production all-electric car to use lithium-ion battery cells, and the first production all-electric car to travel more than 320 km (200 miles) per charge.[45]

Tesla global sales passed 250,000 units in September 2017.[46][47] The Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance achieved the milestone of 500,000 units electric vehicles sold in October 2017.[48] Tesla sold its 200,000th Model S in the fourth quarter of 2017.[49] Global Leaf sales passed 300,000 units in January 2018, keeping its record as the world's top selling plug-in electric car ever.[50] Tesla delivered its 100,000th Model 3 in October 2018.[51]

Many countries have set goals to ban the sales of gasoline and diesel powered vehicles in the future, notably; Norway by 2025, Denmark by 2030, China by 2030, India by 2030, Germany by 2030, France by 2040, and Britain by 2040 or 2050.[52][53][54] Similarly, more cities around the world have begun transitioning public transportation towards electric vehicles, than previously was the case.[55]

In July 2019, US-based Motor Trend magazine awarded the fully electric Tesla Model S as the "ultimate car of the year".[56]

As of September 2019, the two best selling electric cars were, the Nissan Leaf and the Tesla Model S, have EPA-rated ranges reaching up to 243 km (151 miles) and 600 km (370 miles) respectively.[57][58][59] The Leaf is the best-selling highway-capable electric car ever with more than 400,000 units sold,[60] followed by the Tesla Model S with over 400,000 units sold worldwide by June 2019.[49][61][62][63][64]


Total cost of ownership

As of 2019, electric cars are less expensive to run than comparable internal combustion engine cars due to the lower cost of maintenance and energy,[65] but cost more to buy new,[66] and there is uncertainty. Matthew Debord stated, "the cost-of-ownership analysis has to be seen as somewhat unpredictable today, mainly because ... we don’t know how much it will ultimately cost to replace batteries on ageing EVs."[67]

The more kilometers driven per year the more likely the total cost of ownership for an electric car will be less than for an equivalent ICE car. However this distance may not be achievable due to range limitations, recharging availability and time, and battery lifetime. It also varies by country depending on the taxes and subsidies on different types of energy and car, and in some countries it may vary by city as different cities within the country have different charges for entering the city with the same type of car, for example in the UK London charges ICE cars more than Birmingham.[68]

Purchase cost

Several national and local governments have established incentives to reduce the purchase price of electric cars and other plug-ins.[69][70][71][72]

When designing an electric vehicle, manufacturers may find that for low production, converting existing platforms may be cheaper as development cost is lower, however, for higher production, a dedicated platform may be preferred to optimize design, and cost.[73]

Almost 80% of electric vehicles in the U.S. are leased, while the lease rate for the country's entire fleet is about 30%.[74] In early 2018, electric compact cars of 2014 are worth 23 percent of their original sticker price, as comparable cars with combustion engines worth 41 percent.[74]

As of 2019 the electric vehicle battery is a significant part of the total cost of the car.

Operating cost

According to a study done in 2018, examining only fuel costs, the average fueling cost of an electric vehicle in the United States is $485 per year, as opposed to an internal combustion engine's $1,117 per year. Estimated gasoline costs varied from $993 in Alabama to $1,509 in Hawaii. Electric costs varied from $372 in Washington to $1,106 in Hawaii.[75]

Manufacturing cost

The main cost driver of an electric car is its battery. The price decreased from €600 per kWh in 2010, to €170 in 2017, to €100 in 2019.[76][77]

Environmental aspects

Electric cars have several benefits over conventional internal combustion engine automobiles, including a significant reduction of local air pollution, as they do not directly emit pollutants such as particulates (soot), volatile organic compounds, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, ozone, lead, and various oxides of nitrogen.[78][79][80]

Depending on the production process and the source of the electricity to charge the vehicle, emissions may be partly shifted from cities to the material transportation, production plants and generation plants.[42] The amount of carbon dioxide emitted depends on the emissions of the electricity source, and the efficiency of the vehicle. For electricity from the grid, the emissions vary significantly depending on your region, the availability of renewable sources and the efficiency of the fossil fuel-based generation used.[81][82][83]

The same is true of ICE vehicles. The sourcing of fossil fuels (oil well to tank) causes further damage and use of resources during the extraction and refinement processes, including high amounts of electricity.

The cost of installing charging infrastructure has been estimated to be repaid by health cost savings in less than 3 years.[84]

In December 2016, Nissan reported that Leaf owners worldwide achieved the milestone of 3 billion kilometers (1.9 billion miles) driven collectively through November 2016.[85]

Lithium availability

It is estimated that there are sufficient lithium reserves to power 4 billion electric cars.[88][89] Most electric cars use a lithium-ion battery and an electric motor that uses rare-earth elements. The demand for lithium, heavy metals, and other elements (such as neodymium, boron and cobalt) required for the batteries and powertrain is expected to grow significantly due to the future sales increase of plug-in electric vehicles in the mid and long term.[90][91] Some of the largest world reserves of lithium and other rare metals are located in countries with strong resource nationalism, unstable governments or hostility to various overseas interests, raising concerns about the risk of replacing dependence on foreign oil with a new dependence on hostile countries to supply strategic materials.[86][90][91][92]


Acceleration and drivetrain design

Electric motors can provide high power-to-weight ratios, batteries can be designed to supply the currents needed to support these motors. Electric motors have flat torque curve down to zero speed. For simplicity and reliability, many electric cars use fixed-ratio gearboxes and have no clutch.

Many electric cars have higher acceleration than average internal combustion cars, largely due to reduced drivetrain frictional losses, and the more quickly available torque of an electric motor.[94] However Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs) may have a low acceleration due to their relatively weak motors.

Electric vehicles can also use a direct motor-to-wheel configuration that increases the available power. Having motors connected directly to each wheel simplifies using the motor for both propulsion and braking, increasing traction.[95][96][97] Electric vehicles that lack an axle, differential, or transmission can have less drive-train inertia.

For example, the Venturi Fetish delivers supercar acceleration despite a relatively modest 220 kW (300 hp), and top speed of around 160 km/h (100 mph). Some DC-motor-equipped drag racer EVs have simple two-speed manual transmissions to improve top speed.[98] The 2008 Tesla Roadster 2.5 Sport can accelerate from 0 to 97 km/h (0 to 60 mph) in 3.7 seconds with a motor rated at 215 kW (288 hp).[99] Tesla Model S P100D (Performance / 100kWh / 4-wheel drive) is capable of 2.28 seconds for 0–60 mph at a price of $140,000.[100] As of May 2017, the P100D is the second quickest production car ever built, taking only 0.08 seconds longer for 0–97 km/h (0–60 mph), compared to a $847,975 Porsche 918 Spyder.[101] The concept electric supercar Rimac Concept One claims it can go from 0–97 km/h (0–60 mph) in 2.5 seconds. Tesla claims the upcoming Tesla Roadster could go 0–60 mph (0–97 km/h) in 1.9 seconds.[102]

Energy efficiency

Internal combustion engines have thermodynamic limits on efficiency, expressed as fraction of energy used to propel the vehicle compared to energy produced by burning fuel. Gasoline engines effectively use only 15% of the fuel energy content to move the vehicle or to power accessories, and diesel engines can reach on-board efficiency of 20%, while electric vehicles have efficiencies of 69-72%, when counted against stored chemical energy, or around 59-62%, when counted against required energy to recharge.[103][104]

Electric motors are more efficient than internal combustion engines in converting stored energy into driving a vehicle. However, they are not equally efficient at all speeds. To allow for this, some cars with dual electric motors have one electric motor with a gear optimised for city speeds and the second electric motor with a gear optimised for highway speeds. The electronics select the motor that has the best efficiency for the current speed and acceleration.[105] Regenerative braking, which is most common in electric vehicles, can recover as much as one fifth of the energy normally lost during braking.[42][103] Efficiency increases when renewable electricity is used[106]

Cabin heating and cooling

While heating can be provided with an electric resistance heater, higher efficiency and integral cooling can be obtained with a reversible heat pump. PTC junction cooling[107] is also attractive for its simplicity — this kind of system is used, for example, in the 2008 Tesla Roadster.

To avoid using part of the battery's energy for heating and thus reducing the range, some models allow the cabin to be heated while the car is plugged in. For example, the Nissan Leaf, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Renault Zoe and the Tesla Model S and 3 can be pre-heated while the vehicle is plugged in.[108][109][110]

Some electric cars, for example the Citroën Berlingo Electrique, use an auxiliary heating system (for example gasoline-fueled units manufactured by Webasto or Eberspächer) but sacrifice "green" and "Zero emissions" credentials. Cabin cooling can be augmented with solar power external batteries and USB fans or coolers, or by automatically allowing outside air to flow through the car when parked. Two models of the 2010 Toyota Prius include this feature as an option.[111]


The safety issues of BEVs are largely dealt with by the international standard ISO 6469. This document is divided in three parts dealing with specific issues:

  • On-board electrical energy storage, i.e. the battery[112]
  • Functional safety means and protection against failures[113]
  • Protection of persons against electrical hazards[114]

Risk of fire

Like their internal combustion engine (ICE) counterparts, electric vehicle batteries can catch fire after a crash or mechanical failure.[115] Plug-in electric vehicle fire incidents have occurred, albeit less per mile than ICE vehicles.[116] The first modern crash-related fire was reported in China in May 2012, after a high-speed car crashed into a BYD e6 taxi in Shenzhen.[117] The second reported incident occurred in the United States on October 1, 2013, when a Tesla Model S caught fire over ten minutes after the electric car hit metal debris on a highway in Kent, Washington state, and the debris punctured one of 16 modules within the battery pack.[118][119] A third reported fire occurred on October 18, 2013 in Merida, Mexico. In this case the vehicle was being driven at high speed through a roundabout and crashed through a wall and into a tree. The fire broke out several minutes after the driver exited the vehicle.

In the United States, General Motors ran in several cities a training program for firefighters and first responders to demonstrate how to safely disable the Chevrolet Volt's powertrain and its 12 volt electrical system. The Volt's high-voltage system is designed to shut down automatically in the event of an airbag deployment, and to detect a loss of communication from an airbag control module.[120][121] GM also made available an Emergency Response Guide for the 2011 Volt for use by emergency responders. The guide also describes methods of disabling the high voltage system and identifies cut zone information.[122] Nissan also published a guide for first responders that details procedures for handling a damaged 2011 Leaf at the scene of an accident, including a manual high-voltage system shutdown, rather than the automatic process built-in the car's safety systems.[123][124]

Vehicle safety

The weight of the batteries themselves usually makes an EV heavier than a comparable gasoline vehicle, in a collision, the occupants of a heavy vehicle will on average, suffer fewer and less serious injuries than the occupants of a lighter vehicle; therefore, the additional weight brings safety benefits (to the occupant)[125] despite having a negative effect on the car's performance.[126] Depending on where the battery is located, it may lower the center of gravity, increasing driving stability, lowering the risk of an accident through loss of control. An accident in a 2,000 lb (900 kg) vehicle will on average cause about 50% more injuries to its occupants than a 3,000 lb (1,400 kg) vehicle.[127]

Some electric cars use low rolling resistance tires, which typically offer less grip than normal tires.[128][129][130] The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in America had condemned the use of low speed vehicles and "mini trucks," called NEVs when powered by electric motors, on public roads.[131] Mindful of this, several companies (Tesla Motors, BMW, and Uniti) have succeeded in keeping the body light, while making it very strong.[132]


As of 2018, most electric cars have similar driving controls to that of a car with a conventional automatic transmission. Even though the motor may be permanently connected to the wheels through a fixed-ratio gear and no parking pawl may be present, the modes "P" and "N" are often still provided on the selector. In this case the motor is disabled in "N" and an electrically actuated hand brake provides the "P" mode.

In some cars the motor will spin slowly to provide a small amount of creep in "D", similar to a traditional automatic.[133]

When an internal combustion vehicle's accelerator is released, it may slow by engine braking depending on the type of transmission, and mode. An EV would coast when the accelerator is similarly released, but it may be equipped with regenerative braking that mimics a familiar response of slowing the vehicle and also recharging the battery to an extent.[134] Regenerative braking systems also decrease the use of the conventional brakes similarly as engine braking would in an internal combustion vehicle, reducing brake wear and maintenance costs.


Lithium-based batteries are often used for their high power and energy density, although they eventually wear out.[135] Other battery types, such as nickel metal hydride (NiMH), which have a poorer power-to-weight ratio than lithium ion, but are cheaper. Batteries with different chemical compositions are in development such as zinc-air battery that could be much lighter.


The range of an electric car depends on the number and type of batteries used, and as with all vehicles, the weight and type of vehicle, performance requirements, and the weather.[138]

The reported range of production electric vehicles in 2017 ranged from 100 km (60 miles) (Renault Twizy) to 540 km (340 miles) (Tesla Model S 100D).[139] Real-world range tests conducted by What Car in early 2019 found that the highest real-world range was 417 km (259 miles) (Hyundai Kona).[140]

The majority of electric cars are fitted with a display of expected range. This may take into account many factors of how the vehicle is being used, and what the battery is powering. However, since factors can vary over the route, the estimate can vary from the actual achieved range. The display allows the driver to make informed choices about driving speed and whether to stop at a charging point en route. Some roadside assistance organizations offer charge trucks to recharge electric cars in case of emergency.[141]

A study in 2016 stated that 87% of US vehicle-days could be met by current affordable electric cars.[142][143]


Electric cars are typically charged overnight from a charging station installed in the owner's house, or from faster charging stations found in businesses and public areas.[144]

An overnight charge of 8 hours will only give about a 40-mile charge with a 120-volt outlet whereas a 240 volt outlet would give around 180 miles in the same amount of time.[145]

Within each major region of the world, electric car charging stations are essentially universal across car and charger brands, and plugging in a charger into an electric car will charge the car at the fastest rate that car and charger can support. A notable exception are Tesla cars and charging stations, which use their own proprietary chargers, but adapters costing a few hundred dollars can allow use of around 75% of non-Tesla stations.[146] The adapters may also allow non-Tesla vehicles to charge at some Tesla stations other than level 3 Superchargers, assuming Tesla does not try to prevent it.[146]

Some companies have been experimenting with battery swapping to eliminate delay while charging.[147] A “Super Fast” charging location will currently charge most cars to around 80% in 45–50 minutes.  The final 20% – as with a mobile phone – takes longer, because the systems slow to safely fill the battery and avoid any risks.[148]

Hybrid vehicles

Some electric vehicles have built in generators, these are considered a type of hybrid vehicle.


As with all lithium-ion batteries, electric vehicle batteries may degrade over long periods of time, especially if they are frequently overcharged, however, this may take at least several years before being noticeable.[149]

However, Nissan stated in 2015 that thus far only 0.01 percent of batteries had to be replaced because of failures or problems, and then only because of externally inflicted damage. The vehicles that had already covered more than 200,000 km (124,274 mi), have no problems with the battery.[150]


Autonomous park-and-charge

Volkswagen, in collaboration with six partners, is developing an EU research project that is focused on automating the parking and charging of electric vehicles. The objective of this project is to develop a smart car system that allows for autonomous driving in designated areas (e.g. valet parking, park and ride) and can offer advanced driver support in urban environments.[151] Tesla has shown interest in making an arm that automatically charges their vehicles.[152]

Other methods of energy storage

Experimental supercapacitors and flywheel energy storage devices offer comparable storage capacity, faster charging, and lower volatility. They have the potential to overtake batteries as the preferred rechargeable storage for EVs.[153][154] The FIA included their use in its sporting regulations of energy systems for Formula One race vehicles in 2007 (for supercapacitors) and 2009 (for flywheel energy storage devices).

Solar cars

Solar cars are electric vehicles powered completely or significantly by direct solar energy, usually, through photovoltaic (PV) cells contained in solar panels that convert the sun's energy directly into electric energy, usually used to charge a battery.

Electric vehicle charging patents

Qualcomm, Hyundai, Ford, and Mitsubishi are the top patent holders of the close to 800 electric vehicle charging patents filed between 2014 and 2017.[155] A majority of patents on electric vehicle charging were filed in Japan between 2014 and 2017. It is followed by the US and then by China.[156]


Charging station

Battery electric vehicles are most commonly charged from the power grid overnight at the owner's house, provided they have their own charging station. The electricity on the grid is in turn generated from a variety of sources; such as coal, hydroelectricity, nuclear and others. Power sources such as photovoltaic solar cell panels, micro hydro or wind may also be used and are promoted because of concerns regarding global warming.

Charging stations can have a variety of different speeds of charging, with slower charging being more common for houses, and more powerful charging stations on public roads and areas for trips.[157] The BMW i3 can charge 0–80% of the battery in under 30 minutes in rapid charging mode.[158] The superchargers developed by Tesla Motors provided up to 130 kW of charging, allowing a 300-mile charge in about an hour.[159]


Most electric cars have used conductive coupling to supply electricity for recharging after CARB settled on the SAE J1772-2001 standard[160] as the charging interface for electric vehicles in California in June 2001.[161] In Europe, the ACEA has decided to use the Type 2 connector from the range of IEC_62196 plug types for conductive charging of electric vehicles in the European Union, as the Type 1 connector (SAE J1772-2009) does not provide for three-phase charging.[162]

Another approach is inductive charging using a non-conducting "paddle" inserted into a slot in the car. Delco Electronics developed the Magne Charge inductive charging system around 1998 for the General Motors EV1 that was also used for the Chevrolet S-10 EV and Toyota RAV4 EV vehicles.

Vehicle-to-grid: uploading and grid buffering

During peak load periods, when the cost of generation can be very high, electric vehicles could contribute energy to the grid. These vehicles can then be recharged during off-peak hours at cheaper rates while helping to absorb excess night time generation. Here the batteries in the vehicles serve as a distributed storage system to buffer power.[163]

Currently available electric cars

Highway capable

The Nissan Leaf (first image) is the world's top selling highway-legal plug-in electric car ever, with over 400,000 units sold by March 2019,[60] followed by the Tesla Model S (last image), with 263,500 units as of December 2018.[49][61][62][63][64]

According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, as of December 2018, there were almost 180 models of highway-capable all-electric passenger cars and utility vans available for retail sales globally.[164]

The Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance is the world's leading all-electric vehicle manufacturer. Since 2010, the Alliance's global all-electric vehicle sales totaled almost 725,000 units, including those manufactured by Mitsubishi Motors through December 2018, now part of the Alliance.[165] Its best selling Nissan Leaf was the world's top selling plug-in electric car in 2013 and 2014.[166]

Tesla is the second all-time best-selling pure electric passenger car manufacturer, with over 530,000 electric cars delivered worldwide through December 2018.[167] After 10 years in the market, Tesla was the world's top selling plug-in electric passenger car manufacturer in 2018, both as a brand and by automotive group, with 245,240 units delivered representing a market share of 12% of all plug-in cars sold globally in 2018.[12][168][169] Its Model S was the world's top selling plug-in electric car in 2015 and 2016,[166][170][171][49] and its Model 3 was the world's best selling plug-in electric car in 2018.[12]

The world's all-time top selling highway legal electric car is the Nissan Leaf with global sales of over 400,000 units by March 2019,[60] followed by the Tesla Model S with global sales of 263,500 cars as of December 2018.[49][61][62][63][64] The Renault Kangoo Z.E. utility van is the leader of the light-duty all-electric segment with global sales of 38,527 units through December 2018.[172][173]

The following table lists the all-time best-selling highway-capable all-electric passenger cars with cumulative global sales of around or more than 100,000 units since their inception through December 2018:

Top selling highway-capable all-electric passenger cars produced between 2008 and December 2018(1)
Global salesCumulative
sales through
Since inception2018
Nissan LeafDec 2010+380,00087,149Dec 2018[12][174]
Tesla Model SJun 2012263,50450,630Dec 2018[49][61][62][63][64]
BAIC EC-SeriesDec 2016172,844(3)90,637Dec 2018[175]
Tesla Model 3Jul 2017147,819146,055Dec 2018[64][176][177][178]
Renault ZoeDec 2012133,64540,508Dec 2018[172][173]
BMW i3Nov 2013133,397(2)34,829Dec 2018[166][179][180][181][182][183]
Tesla Model XSep 2015120,73948,680Dec 2018[61][62][63][64][166][184][185][186][187]
Chery eQNov 2014~119,000(3)46,967Dec 2018[188][189][190]
(1) Vehicles are considered highway-capable if able to achieve at least a top speed of 100 km/h (62 mph).
(2) BMW i3 sales includes the REx variant (split is not available). (3) Sales in main China only.

Retrofitted electric vehicles

Any car can be converted to an electric vehicle using plug and play kits of making custom solutions. The conversion of internal combustion engine cars to electric cars is called Retrofitted Electric Vehicles.

Electric cars by country

Global sales of highway legal plug-in electric passenger cars and light utility vehicles achieved the one million milestone in September 2015, almost twice as fast as hybrid electric vehicles (HEV).[191][192] Cumulative global sales of light-duty all-electric vehicles reached one million units in September 2016.[193][194]

Cumulative global sales of plug-in passenger cars passed 2 million in December 2016,[195] the 3 million mark in November 2017,[196] and the 5 million milestone in December 2018.[10] Despite the rapid growth experienced, the global stock of plug-in electric cars represented just about 1 out of every 250 vehicles (0.40%) on the world's roads by the end of 2018.[11] As of December 2018, the global stock of pure electric passenger cars and light commercial vehicles (utility vans) totaled about 3.45 million units, representing 65% of all light-duty plug-in vehicles on the world's roads.[10][197]

All-electric cars have oversold plug-in hybrids for several years, and by the end of 2018, the plug-in market continues to shift towards fully electric battery vehicles. The global ratio between annual sales of battery BEVs and PHEVs went from 56:44 in 2012, to 60:40 in 2015, and rose to 69:31 in 2018.[12][13]

Annual sales of plug-in electric passenger cars in the world's top markets between 2011 and 2018[198][197][199][200]
Evolution of the ratio between global sales of BEVs and PHEVs between 2011 and 2018.[12][13]

Government subsidy

Several countries have established grants and tax credits for the purchase of new electric cars, often depending on battery size. The U.S. offers a federal income tax credit up to US$7,500,[72] and several states have additional incentives.[202] The UK offers a Plug-in Car Grant up to a maximum of GB£4,500 (US$5,929).[203] The U.S. government also pledged US$2.4 billion in federal grants for the development of advanced technologies for electric cars and batteries,[204] despite the fact that overall sales are not increasing at the expected rate.[205]

As of April 2011, 15 European Union member states provide economic incentives for the purchase of new electrically chargeable vehicles, which consist of tax reductions and exemptions, as well as of bonus payments for buyers of all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, hybrid electric vehicles, and some alternative fuel vehicles.[206][207]

EV plans from major manufacturers

Volkswagen plans 27 electric vehicles by 2022, on a dedicated EV platform dubbed "Modular Electric Toolkit" and initialed as MEB.[208] Ford will use Volkswagen's Modular Electric Toolkit to design and build its own fully electric vehicles starting in 2023.[209]

Toyota has developed a global EV platform named e-TNGA that can accommodate a three-row SUV, sporty sedan, small crossover or a boxy compact.[210] Toyota and Subaru will release a new EV on a shared platform.[211] It will be about the size of a Subaru Forester or Toyota RAV4.

As of March 2019, BMW plans 12 all electric vehicles by 2025, using a fifth-generation electric powertrain architecture, which will save weight and cost and increase capacity.[212] BMW has ordered €10 billion worth of battery cells valid from 2021 through 2030.[213][214][215]

Mercedes plans to invest $23 billion on battery cells through 2030 and have 10 all electric vehicles by 2022.[216][217]

In January 2019, GM announced that it plans to make Cadillac its lead electric vehicle brand starting in 2021.[218] GM's “BEV3” next-generation electric vehicle platform is designed to be flexible for use in many different vehicle types, such as front, rear and all-wheel drive configurations.[219]

Ford is planning to release an electric F-150 in the 2021 time frame.[220][221] The Ford Mustang Mach-E, is an electric crossover and with the extended battery range will reach 340 km (210 miles) and up to 480 km (300 miles) if equipped with the rear wheel drive option.[222]

Infiniti announced that by 2021 all newly introduced vehicles will be electric or hybrid.[223]

On 23 October 2019, Hyundai announced it plans 16 new electric vehicles by 2025.[224]

Psychological Barriers to Adoption

Even though EV technology has been around for centuries and modern EVs have been on the market for a few decades, many are still hesitant to adopt this technology. Multiple studies show that various psychological factors play a role when purchasing a car. Firstly, people have driven gasoline fueled cars for centuries, and many are not likely to stop without motivation. For some, this motivation can be intrinsic and driven by a need to adopt sustainable behaviors or have the newest technology. For others it may be extrinsic and caused by increasing gasoline prices. Furthermore, many are averse to adopting an EV because of fears and misconceptions about the new technology.

Social Norms and Loss Aversion

For the past century most people have driven internal combustion engine (ICE) cars that require gasoline to power the motor and propel the vehicle forward. As such, driving a car with an ICE is a descriptive norm, meaning it is “what other people do”, and what an individual does if they want to fit in.[225] Since ICE cars are widespread, society is accustomed to them and trusts them, and as such the public is more likely to adopt an ICE vehicle than an EV. In Gary L. Brase’s 2019 study it was found that “gasoline-powered vehicles were perceived to be better than EVs in terms of safety (d = .22), performance (d = .55), suitability for long trips (d = .62), and availability of fuel/charging stations (d = 1.97)”.[226] When it comes to EVs, people have range anxiety - worries about running out of fuel - and fear that an EV may have worse “performance (speed/power), [and] safety/reliability” in comparison to an ICE car.[226] Overall, these perceptions about EVs lead people to feel more comfortable driving an ICE car.

In fact, the availability of charging stations plays a large role in whether individuals choose to adopt EVs. Since ICE cars have been around for quite some time, society has developed to make it easy for people to refuel gasoline cars. In the US, almost every corner in town has a gas station, and the cost of gasoline is relatively cheap due to government subsidies. The social norm is for people to easily refuel their car whenever and wherever they please, and as such people can go on trips without thinking of how far they must travel and how much energy they have to get there.

Since EVs require specific charging infrastructure, the descriptive norm of going to the gas station to fuel up is broken. For most EV drivers, “the most convenient and lowest cost option” for charging is overnight at their home.[227] On a full charge, most modern EVs have a range between 140 to 200 miles allowing people to easily make daily trips, but longer drives or sitting in heavy traffic can test the range of the EV. In some locations, especially rural or more suburban areas, EV technology is not widely adopted, resulting in relatively little public charging stations. Additionally, different EV types require different plugs to charge the vehicle.[227] This means EV drivers may have a harder time finding some place to refuel, and even if they find an EV charging station, it may not be the right model plug for your EV. Finally, charging an EV takes significantly longer than refueling an ICE car. Some chargers are adopted for rapid charging that requires only thirty minutes; however, they are the least common type of public charging infrastructure and the most costly to install and charge at.[227]

The requirements for charging and lack of infrastructure cause some people to have loss aversion and not want to give up their gasoline fueled car. While the environmental benefits of an EV are great, people value the ease and convenience with which they can drive an ICE car. When going on a trip in a vehicle with an ICE, one does not need to look up the closest place to refuel and if they have the right kind of gasoline, it is simply assumed that on the way there will be an adequate place to refuel. As such, it is more convenient to drive an ICE car.

One way to potentially increase EV use is to assuage some of the fears surrounding range anxiety that come from the lack of charging infrastructure. Range anxiety refers to fears that the EV does not have enough charge to make it to the desired destination/nearest charging station.[228] Although this is a problem that ICE cars also have, there are significantly more gas stations in the US than EV charging stations, meaning an individual may have to travel farther to recharge an EV than they would a vehicle with an ICE.

Like ICE cars, there are driving practices that can be used to increase the fuel efficiency and enhance the driving range of an EV. Fortunately, several eco-friendly driving practices that extend the driving range of an EV can be adapted from similar actions taken in an ICE car, such as “driving at or under the speed limit, avoiding abrupt starts and stops”, and avoiding idling.[228] EVs are also equipped to handle additional eco-friendly practices including regenerative braking. Through these driving practices, EV drivers can reduce energy consumption by about 27%, thus extending their driving range so they have more time to find a charging station.[228]

When people have more experience driving an EV, they tend to lose their behavior related inefficiencies - practices that are not sustainable but are adopted into everyday routine, and as such not consciously done - and adopt eco-friendly driving practices that extend the range of the EV. This is especially true in critical conditions when there is a minimal buffer zone between EV range and the distance to the nearest charging station. A study by Günther et al. found that “theoretical training and BEV driving experience have comparable effects” on using eco-friendly driving practices in critical range, and these effects differ from inexperienced EV drivers with no theoretical knowledge.[228] This means that when inexperienced EV drivers are made aware of eco-friendly driving techniques, they are highly likely to use them.

Although many of the eco-friendly driving practices are the same in EVs and ICE cars, the inexperienced EV driver needed to have the techniques made salient. This is because many eco-friendly techniques are underutilized because of behavior related inefficiencies. Often these behaviors are deeply ingrained and part of the automatic system, and to break from these behaviors one must consider their actions, a task that is more time and energy consuming.[229]

Social Comparison and Gender Identity

Another way to possibly expand EV use is to address what people think EV adoption represents and what it says about the EV driver. The US is a highly individualistic culture in which people feel they have choice over their actions. As such, people tend to choose actions that they feel represent them self and are in line with their values. At the same time, people in an individualistic cultures are still subject to social comparison - comparing them self to others. Thus, while people want to act in an authentic way, they still crave social approval and worry about what their actions represent and how others will interpret them.[229]

Driving a car is no different, people struggle with expressing their individuality and balancing it with what others will think. In Brase’s 2019 study it was found that people were less likely to drive an EV if they believed that their car choice “‘makes a statement about [the driver] and [their] values’”.[226] People are resistant either because driving an EV does not reflect their values, or they do not welcome the social perception of what driving an EV represents. Specifically, people view driving an EV as an action taken by those with “stronger attitudes in favor of environmental and energy security” or by those that are “attracted to the novelty and status associated with being among the first to adopt new technology”.[226] Thus, those that are resistant to driving an EV may not be an environmentalist or an adopter of new technology, or they do not want others to think of them as an environmentalist or adopter of new technology.

Surprisingly, what people perceive as the value associated with driving an EV is split depending upon the driver’s gender. In a 2019 survey conducted in Norway, it was found that people believe women drive EVs for sustainability purposes while men drive EVs for the new technology.[230] The thought process behind this stereotype is that “big and expensive cars are driven by men, while women drive smaller, less valuable cars”.[230] Additionally, it is generally thought that women are more concerned about the environment because of their “tendency to be more pro-social, altruistic and empathetic” while male resistance to sustainability stems from a fear of being associated with femininity.[231]

Since the reasons behind adopting EVs are gendered, it can be argued that some fear driving an EV will result in a disconnect between their gender identity and how society perceives them. For example, a man may resist driving an EV because it is small and sustainable and those are characteristics associated with femininity. Conversely, a woman may resist driving an EV because it is expensive and technologically new, which are characteristics associated with masculinity.

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