50five e-mobility logo tagline50five e-mobility logo
elektrische auto
17 Sep 2020

How do electric cars work?

By Lynn
  • Read time: 3 minutes
If you have been a fuel-powered car owner before, then you probably have an idea of the basic components of the car. Therefore, it wouldn’t be much of a hassle when trying to wrap your head around how an electric car works.

Essentially, there are some core components that fuel-powered cars have that electric-powered vehicles don’t and vice versa. For instance, electric vehicles (EV) don’t have a fuel tank but instead, have batteries and instead of running on a conventional engine, they have electric motors and many other components.

You wouldn’t easily tell if a car is electric or fuel-powered just from the exterior appearance of the car. In some cases, manufacturers just convert a previously fuel-powered car into an electric one. Therefore, relying on just your sight might be a little deceiving. The easiest clue you might get that you are actually driving or seen an electric car is how silent it drives. From reading through this post, you will get the answer to the question, how do electric cars work?

Important Components of an Electric Car

Unlike your ordinary fuel-powered car, an electric car comes with some very vital components that make the whole difference. Here are some of the key components of an electric car that you should know:

  • Electric traction motor: The motor makes use of power flowing from the traction battery pack to drive the wheels of the vehicle. However, some cars utilise motor-generators to carry out the same function.

  • Traction battery pack: This component stores electricity that will be used by the electric traction motor to run the wheels.

  • Auxiliary battery: It is responsible for providing auxiliary electricity to power all the car’s accessories.

  • On-board charger: This is a device that directs the incoming AC power supplied through the charge port then converts the current into DC power. This power is what is used to charge the traction battery pack. It is also responsible for monitoring such characteristics as current, voltage, state of charging and temperature as you charge the car.

  • Charge port: This port is created to allow you to connect your car to an external green charging spot to get the traction battery pack charged.

  • Power electronics controller: The controller manages how the traction battery delivers the flow of electricity while managing the speed of your car’s traction motor and controlling the torque the motor produces.

  • DC/DC converter: The car’s auxiliary battery and accessories need lower-voltage DC power to run while the power that flows from the traction battery pack is high-voltage. Therefore, the converter converts the high-voltage DC power to low-voltage DC power.

  • Thermal cooling system: This is what maintains the right operating temperature range of the car’s motor among other components.

  • Electric transmission: This is what transfers the car’s mechanical power from its traction motor thus driving the wheels.

Do Electric Cars have Gears?

It is only natural for someone who is used to driving conventional gears to ask, do electric cars have gears? After decades of getting used to shifting gears, it is easy to assume that electric cars would also come fitted with multispeed transmission. However, the truth of the matter is that no electric car comes with a gear.

Unlike multispeed transmission cars, electric cars don’t necessarily need gears to generate torque. Although it is not that electric cars can’t be made with gears, it is just that they wouldn’t need them at all. These cars can achieve an impressive 100% torque even while cruising at low speeds. It is always a good idea to keep the revs per minute (RPM) under 2000 to generate more torque. The higher the RPM, the lesser the torque the car will generate.

An electric car has a very simple system with great efficiency, power and torque powertrain. Adding gears to this system will only add fraction, complexity, inefficiency and weight, all of which are not particularly necessary for these cars. It will only lead to the decrease of the car’s power, torque powertrain, efficiency and power.

Furthermore, electric cars don’t come with clutches. That is to mean gears wouldn’t be important. However, they just use one gear. With just this one gear, an electric car can achieve an impressive 20,000 RPM as compared to conventional cars that only reach 6,000 RPM.

Are all Electric Cars Automatic?

The simple answer to the question, are all electric cars automatic is yes, they are. These cars don’t have clutch systems installed in them. These cars can’t stall as you would experience in fuel-powered cars. That is why you wouldn’t see a clutch in any EV. However, there are some peculiar cases where some manufacturers have tried coming up with EVs that have 5-speed or even 6-speed gearboxes to allow most users already used to driving manual vehicles enjoy their driving experiences.

The difference isn’t only in the transmission system, but the braking system too. Unlike in conventional cars, regenerative brake systems are used in EVs. The system converts the heat the car’s brakes produce the energy that the vehicle can use.


Electric cars are here with us and it is about time we learn to embrace them because these are cars of the future. Learning how electric cars work makes it easy to understand the key components and how exactly they work so that you don’t get left behind by this wave. Furthermore, the costs of acquiring electric cars are reducing, making them more affordable and accessible for everyone. Besides, the costs of a home car charger are usually lower than people expect.

Do you want the charging station mounted on the wall or on a pole?
Is the charging station for business or private use?

Personal information

Data processing*

Written by Lynn

Writes blogs about EV charging and climate solutions for 50five.