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Why an Electric Car?

I've been thinking about electric cars for about 4 years now, well actually for a much longer time, but a lot more in the past 4 years. These seem to make far more sense than the "normal gas car," otherwise know as the Internal Combustion Engine car (ICE for short).

ICE (Gas Engine)

IJB TA at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

IJB TA at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

We all are familiar with the internal combustion engine and how it burns gas to make the car go. But the basis is that we inject a mixture of gas vapor and air, and then compress it and light a spark. That spark makes the gas-air mixutre explode pushing the piston down. The piston in turn is connected to a crank shaft, which rotates with the mechanical movement of the piston. Most cars have 4, 6 or 8 of these pistons and cylinders. Along with this, each cylinder has at least 2 valves, and most have 4 valves. With the valves, there are camshafts that turn lobes that make the valves go up and down.

The photo on the right shows a single-overhead cam (SOHC) activating 2 valves per cylinder. This head is from a 4-cylinder engine. Note all the mechanical components in just this part of the engine. The valves are held in place by springs, while they are activated by rockers, which are activated by the camshaft. In this case the camshaft is somewhat hidden, but it's located behind the large gear on the front of this photo.

With just this part of the engine, there is much complexity. This doesn't include the pistons, the piston rings, the piston rods, the crankshaft, the flywheel, the bearings, the block itself. After these basics, then you have all the supporting equipment it takes to run the standard gas engine. This includes radiators for cooling the block so it doesn't melt down, the fuel injection system the spark plugs, the evaporative systems, the emissions systems (catalytic converter), the exhaust system (muffler, exhaust pipes, etc.), the computer to control all the parts of the engine, the various sensors.

By Alan_D from Crawley, United Kingdom (Nissan GTR Cutaway) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Alan_D from Crawley, United Kingdom (Nissan GTR Cutaway) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Here is a cutaway photo of a Nissan GTR ICE car. This shows some of those support systems including the radiators, the transmission, the driveshaft, rear differential, the rear axle, the front axle, center differential, and so much more.

Now we haven't even begun to talk about transmissions. Transmissions have tons of moving parts and clutches and hydraulics. The transmission is almost more complex than the ICE itself. They are an amazing wonder of gears and engineering.

There are several estimates of the number of moving parts in an ICE car which range from 2,000 to 10,000. I suspect that 10,000 is the total number of parts in an ICE car, while the drivetrain (engine and transmission and differentials, axles and wheels) total about 2,000.

Electric Motor

The electric motor has been around just as long as the internal combustion engine. But with the motor, there is only 1 moving part, the rotor. The rotor turns because of magnetic fields induced because of electricity flowing through windings in the rotor and windings in the stator, or permanent magnets.

When you run electrical current through a winding (coil of copper), you create a magnetic field. This field can be opposed with an opposite polarity field that is either created by another winding or by permanent magnets in the stator. This opposition in the fields makes the rotor turn. The turning rotor can then turn the axle which makes the car move. The electric motor is far simpler than the ICE.

Contrast the number of moving parts that an ICE car has with that of an electric vehicle (EV). Estimates say that the Tesla Model S has between 200 and 2,000 moving parts. Just as above, I suspect the drivetrain has 200, while the total number of parts is 2,000. This is because there is no engine, no transmission, just a small simple cooling system compared to the larger one on the ICE car, no emission system, no exhaust system. The electric motor only has 1 moving part. The transmission, if you can call it that, is just a gear reduction. It's basically a 1 speed transmission.

This really means that the complexity is far lower between an ICE car and an EV. With no heat being generated, or at least very little heat, the motor doesn't usually need to be cooled itself. This would probably mean that there is far less maintenance with the electric motor.

The bottom line is that the electric car eliminates the need for the following components and systems: the internal combustion engine, pistons piston rings, distributor, spark plugs, valves, lifters, camshafts, piston rods, crankshaft, flywheel, starter motor, starter solenoid, oil, oil filter, coolant, radiators, fans, water pump, thermostat, anti-freeze, evaporative canister, PCV valve, EGR, carburetor, fuel injectors, fuel pump, muffler, exhaust pipes, catalytic converter, transmission, center differential, gasoline, gasoline pump, gasoline tank, gasoline filter, and several hundred other parts that I'm forgetting.

 

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