Electric Car Components (Overview)

You have decided to build an electric car. There are a wide variety of electric car components available. Understanding these components and their specific purposes is the first part of building your own. Below is a list of the most common parts that the home electric car builder will need to build a car that meets the needs of the average driver.

Electric Motor

Every electric car needs a motor. Electric motors vary in shape and size, weight and price. They can use AC or DC electricity. A budget builder may choose to use an electric motor from an old forklift or elevator system. There are also lots of electric car-specific motors available for purchase alone or as part of a kit. You will need to choose a motor that will suit your needs for performance and budget.

Motor Controller

The purpose of the motor controller is to adjust the speed at which the motor spins. If 120V were applied directly to an electric motor for example, it would run at full speed. There needs to be a means of adjusting the output of the motor and this is precisely what the motor controller is for. It allows the motor to run at any speed between zero rpm and its max rpm. This part can also be salvaged either from a forklift or golf cart.

Throttle Pot Box

A pot box is a small part that connects to your stock throttle cable. When you push on your throttle, the pot box sends a signal corresponding to the amount of pressure you’re putting on the pedal to the controller which then sends the proper power to the motor.

Adapter Plate

The adapter plate mates the electric motor to a stock transmission. These can be bought for any commonly converted vehicle. Most EV-specific motors have a standard bolt pattern so most adapter plates will work with most motors. If you use a motor from a forklift you will need to have an adapter plate custom built or of course if you’re a decent fabricator you can always do this yourself.

Contactor

This is basically a high-voltage relay. It connects your battery pack to the controller when you turn on the key.

Fuse

A fuse will blow and cut power when too much amperage is drawn.

Manual Switch

There needs to be one (or more) manual disconnects for the main battery pack. This way if all else fails you can manually disconnect the power and safely stop the vehicle.

Batteries

There are many different types of batteries available. The type of batteries that you choose will affect your performance and range.

Charger

There are many different types of chargers available and the charger you need will depend on the batteries you use.

DC/DC Converter

The DC/DC converter takes the voltage of your main (traction) battery pack and reduces it to 12V which keeps your 12V battery charged. An electric vehicle still needs an 12V battery to power all the lights, stereo, horn etc. Keeping this battery charged can be achieved other ways as well. Some EV builders use an alternator that runs off the electric motor and others use a separate 12V charger to charge this battery.

Gauges

You will need to know what’s going on under the hood and this is where your gauges come in. Most basic EV builds use a high-voltage ammeter and voltage gauge (for traction pack voltage) and a low voltage gauge (12V system).

 

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Does Electric Make Sense ?

Does Electric Make Sense?

There’s a debate about how ‘green’ fully-electric cars really are. Sure, they have zero tailpipe emissions, but the electricity is still being produced (creating pollution) elsewhere. This act of taking pollution away from the cities to other locations is called de-centralizing pollution. Moral implications aside, it’s considered to be a good thing. We’d only be de-centralizing power (not pollution) if hydro, nuclear, solar and wind were the major sources of power, but India still gets around 60% of its electricity from coal, with the next biggest chunk coming from petroleum.

Taking a deeper look, ‘internal combustion engines’ found in conventional cars are extremely wasteful – they run at about 25% efficiency, and less than 20% of the energy makes it to the road. All the other energy gets wasted as heat. Now, car engines have to be designed as portable and light, whereas power stations can be huge and heavy, enabling them to harness energy that otherwise gets wasted. This makes power stations 2-3 times more efficient than car engines. They also have far better means of converting the resultant bi-products into more eco-friendly elements. Keep this in mind when people say that electric vehicles are only moving the pollution problem further away from us.

Are electric vehicles the correct way forward for the future? I’m not an expert on the subject, but I think they are definitely a step in the right direction. Perhaps, EVs will find their success working in tandem with other new-age fuel & power source technologies.

Price & the Indian Market

In other markets, Governments have seen the need to reduce their oil consumption and provide several incentives to EV owners. Some of the biggest advantages of electric cars include the ability to have heavy congestion taxes waived or circumvent traffic by getting access to exclusive ‘car-pool lanes’. Unfortunately this doesn’t apply to us. However, I’m sure our Government will add perks for EV buyers once they are under more pressure from the car manufacturer’s lobby.

Why would such a small car cost so much? Well, my best guess would be a mix of un-harnessed economies of scale, expensive imported batteries, heavy taxes and lack of subsidies…all adding up. Delhi offers a 29% subsidy on electric cars. Other states haven’t followed suit yet. It’s unclear if the Central Government has a subsidy planned, even though talks have been happening for years now.

It’s hard to do an apples-to-apples comparison between EV and any other car in the Indian market. The disparity between electric vehicles and fueled ones becomes apparent once any figures are compared on paper. If we were to compare, would we choose its competitors based on price? Running costs? Alternative fuels? Automatic transmission? Vehicle size? Features? Engine power? 

To be honest, EVs are still new in India and at this price-point, prospective EV buyers are those early adopters who have an ideology in their minds that makes them want to purchase an electric-vehicle.

What We Believe

ImageWe believe that more than 100 years after the invention of the internal combustion engine, incumbent automobile manufacturers are at a crossroads and face significant industry-wide challenges. The reliance on the gasoline-powered internal combustion engine as the principal automobile powertrain technology has raised environmental concerns, created dependence among industrialized and developing nations on oil largely imported from foreign nations and exposed consumers to volatile fuel prices. In addition, we believe the legacy investments made by incumbent automobile manufacturers in manufacturing and technology related to the internal combustion engine have to date inhibited rapid innovation in alternative fuel powertrain technologies. We believe these challenges offer an historic opportunity for companies with innovative electric powertrain technologies and that are unencumbered with legacy investments in the internal combustion engine to lead the next technological era of the automotive industry.