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Electric vehicle buying guide: All you need to know

Electrical mobility is changing how we commute, but buying an electric vehicle has its caveats. Be it range anxiety or technical jargon, purchasing an electric vehicle is no easy task.

If you’re in the market for an EV and have some time to spare to understand what you’re going to buy, here we talk about all you need to know before buying an electric vehicle. So if you are looking to change the way you commute but don’t know where to start, you are in the right place.

Here we’ve covered the following topics.

Also read: 7 common myths about Electric Vehicles debunked


EVs vs Fuel-based cars

The similarity between an electric vehicle and a traditional car is uncanny when you look at them from the outside, but on the inside, they are nothing like each other.

Silent electric motor power EVs compared to a controlled explosion chamber, the engine. In addition to this, an electric vehicle uses lithium-ion batteries compared to fossil fuels.

Tesla Model 3 with mid-range battery launched at $45,000

In terms of driving experience, an electric vehicle offers a quiet cabin and instant acceleration, which is unheard of in a conventional car.

If you are a car buff, who loves the sound of a revving engine driving an EV can be a little off-putting. So, before you buy an election vehicle, it is advised that you take a test drive and experience what an electric vehicle has to offer.

Also read: Top 6 electric scooter companies in India


Understanding EV components

EVs do many things differently than their petrol or diesel counterparts, and here’s what you need to look at before buying one.

Charging cables and connectors

Just like you get a charging cable with your smartphone to juice up its battery, an electric vehicle also comes with a cable, which has different types.

Although all types of cables perform the same task of transmitting power, the connectors they use employ different communication strategies to control overheating while delivering different power outputs.

Therefore, if you plan to buy an electric vehicle, it’s essential to understand the type of connector your electric vehicle works with. This will help you know which chargers on the road are compatible with your vehicle.

Before we get into charging cables, it’s crucial to understand how charging cables are rated. So, just like the charging cable on your smartphone transfers power in watts, an electric vehicle charging cable transfers power in kilowatts.

A cable capable of delivering higher power will help you charge your vehicle in lesser time.

Listed below are the different types of electric vehicle chargers.

Type 1: The type one charger comes with a five-pole connector and an alternating current to juice up your vehicle. Offering a power output from 3.7 to 19.2KW, the type 1 charger will charge an EV in 8 – 12 hours based on the size of its battery. Although the type 1 connector offers a suitable power output, it is now obsolete. It only supports single-phase alternating current and does not offer auto-locking while you charge your vehicle. The same is used in several electric cars by Ford, Citroen and Mitsubishi.

Type 2: Also known as the Mennekes connector, the type 2 connector tries to solve the problems with the type 1 connector. Offering support for 3 phase alternating current and auto-locking functionality, the type 2 connector can deliver a maximum power output of 43KW using a three-phase alternating current. Due to the high power delivery, this connector can be used for fast charging. Not only this, both the European Union and Indian government have standardised the type 2 connector for fast charging using alternating current.

GB/T (AC):  If you are in China, you will probably be using the GB/T connector to charge your electric vehicle as it’s the only connector they use. At first glance, the GB/T connector looks exactly like the type 2 connector, but it uses different circuitry on the inside. In terms of power, the GB/T connector can deliver a maximum capacity of 27.7 KW.


All the connectors given above supply alternating current to charge the vehicle, but here is the catch: your electric vehicle’s battery can only charge using direct current. Therefore, an AC to DC converter in the car changes the AC input to charge the onboard battery.

The power handling capability of the onboard AC-DC converter on your vehicle is what defines the maximum power it can draw when connected to an AC charging source.

In addition to AC, electric vehicles can also be charged using DC and charging your vehicle using direct current needs different connectors.

If you use a DC connector to charge your vehicle it will bypass the onboard converter and charge the battery directly. Due to the direct supply of power to the battery, DC chargers are used for fast charging and can charge an electric vehicle in a matter of minutes.

Below is the list of connectors capable of charging your vehicle using direct current.


Combined charging system (CSS): The integrated charging system builds on type 1 and type 2 connectors we talked about earlier and adds DC charging support to them. Therefore, there are two types of CSS connectors, CSS combo 1 and CSS combo 2. Combo 1 uses the type one connector and adds two additional pins for supporting DC charging, whereas combo 2 uses the type 2 connector with two additional pins. This connector is capable of supplying maximum power output of 350 KW. In terms of advantages, the CSS port enables electric vehicles to have a single charging port which can be used for both AC and DC charging.

Chademo: Developed by a group of Japanese automakers and Tokyo electrical power, Chademo is another DC charging connector used with several electric vehicles. Capable of delivering power up to 400KW the Chademo connector was the world’s first DC fast charging connector. Not only this, the Chademo connector is capable of bidirectional charging. Due to this, it can be used to charge another vehicle and send power back to the electrical grid when the power systems are under immense loads.

GB/T (DC): There are two types of GB/T connectors, the one we talked about earlier is used for AC charging and the GB/T(DC) connector is used to supply DC power to the electric vehicle. Developed by the standardisation administration of China (SAC), the connector can deliver a maximum capacity of up to 250 KW.

Tesla connector: When it comes to Tesla, charging your car is entirely different as it does not use any of the charging connectors given above. Instead, it uses a proprietary connector for both AC and DC charging. Tesla superchargers can deliver the power of up to 250 KW while using DC power and offer up to 17.2 KW while using AC power. However, due to the standardisation of the CSS connector, even Tesla is shifting to the CSS connector for charging.

Chaoji: The Japanese and the Chinese have created a new connector called the Chaoji connector. This connector unifies the Chademo standard and the GB/T standard and plans to offer power of up to 900 KW. Not only this, the connector intends to be compatible with vehicles using the CSS connector, and the Chaoji team wants to create a single connector for all your charging needs. The connector is still in the development stage and is expected to be seen in vehicles by the end of 2022.


Types of charging stations

Although the connectors given above can transfer up to 350 KWs, the way use charge your electric vehicle will determine the amount of power you get. So, if you connect a type 2 connector to your vehicle, which is capable of delivering 43 KW, but connect the other side of the cable to a wall socket in your house, which is capable of providing a maximum of 2.5 KW, you would only be capable of charging at 2.5 KW.

Just like the example given above, the power provided by an Electrical Vehicle Charging Station(EVCS) would define the maximum charging speed you can get.

Based on the maximum power which the EVCS can provide, the charging capability of a charging station is divided into different levels. Given below are is a list of different charging levels.

  • Level 1 (AC): This charging level can supply a maximum power of 3.5 KW, also known as slow AC charging. This level of AC charging can be delivered using a type 1, type 2 or the GB/T connector on the vehicle side and could use a three-pin socket on the input side. Level 1 changing can be delivered using a dedicated wall-mounted EVCS, which could use a tethered cable or a type 1 or type 2 connector on the input side. Using this level of charging will take about 8-10 hours to charge your vehicle if it has a 30 kWh battery.
  • Type 2 (AC): This type of charging can deliver a maximum power of 22 KW and be used to fast charge your vehicle. In terms of connectors, this level of charging can be delivered by the type 2 or the GB/T connector on the car and would need a dedicated EVCS to deliver the high power without damaging your vehicle. This would enable you to charge a vehicle with a 100 kWh battery in 5-6 hours.
  • Type 3 (AC): Type 3 is the fastest. Capable of delivering a maximum power of 43 KW, the type 3 charging can charge an electric vehicle in a matter of minutes. In terms of charging time, this type of charging will charge a car with a 52KWh battery to up to 80 per cent in 40-60 minutes.

All the above charging levels use an alternating current to charge your vehicle. In addition to AC, even DC charging has different levels, and it’s primarily used for fast charging.

It’s important to know that fast charging can charge your vehicle from 20 to 80 per cent and will stop after that. This behaviour is related to how batteries charge and the fact that they get damaged if they are charged using high power after reaching a state of charge of 80 per cent. Therefore, this charging strategy is only used to top up an electric vehicle rather than charging them completely.


  • Level 1 (DC): This charging level can deliver a maximum power of 15 KW. This type of charging can be delivered using the CSS, GB/T(DC) and the Chademo connector. It can charge a vehicle to 80 per cent in a matter of 2 hours if it has a battery of 30 KW.
  • Level 3(DC): In terms of power, level 3 charging can deliver a maximum power of 400 KW and be used for fast charging electric vehicles with bigger batteries.

Different countries define different charging levels and the ones given above are as per the standards in India.


Battery

The battery on an electric vehicle is the fuel tank of your electric vehicle. Not only this, the battery on an EV is its most expensive component. Attributing to about 32 per cent of the cost, every electric vehicle owner wants to know about the battery that powers their every journey.

A lot goes on inside your car’s battery pack, and if you want to understand how the lithium-ion battery on your vehicle works, you can read this article.

Although there is a lot of chemistry behind the battery pack of an electric vehicle, any person planning to buy an electric vehicle wants to understand the number of kilometres they can drive until their battery pack gives up. But before getting into the range of an EV, it’s essential to know how batteries are rated in the first place.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to power ratings, batteries use kilowatt hour or (KWh). A battery with a higher KWh rating would be able to provide more range. The unit kWh defines the amount of power a battery can provide for an hour.

So if your EV comes with a battery pack of 30 KWh, it will be able to power loads with a rating of 30 KW for a total duration of 1 hour. Using this knowledge, you can understand the battery’s capability in your vehicle.


Motors

Electric vehicles can offer unprecedented acceleration thanks to electric motors,

An electric motor uses electric current and magnetic fields to generate torque. Due to this, it has a lesser number of moving parts, and they are easier to maintain when compared to an IC engine.

To understand which motor is better for an, you look at the amount of power and torque they offer, and you know which engine is superior to the other.

In the case of motors, both torque and power are critical, but in addition to that, we need to look at the following parameters to understand how capable they are.

  • Starting torque: This defines the torque the motor can output when you start the car.
  • Torque at high speeds: As the speed of a motor increases above a certain threshold, its torque delivery decreases. Therefore, it’s essential to know how a motor performs at high speeds. Knowing this will help you understand how your car will perform when travelling at high speeds.
  • Efficiency: The efficiency of a motor defines the amount of electrical energy a motor can convert to mechanical energy. Therefore, a motor with a higher efficiency would provide a longer range and better power.

In terms of variants, there are four types of electric motors — DC brush, BLDC, PMSM and Induction motors — and each one of them behaves differently. Therefore, if you get a vehicle with an induction motor, it will work differently when compared to a vehicle powered by a BLDC motor.

DC brush motor: As the name suggests, this motor uses a direct current to move a vehicle. It uses brushes and commutators to convert electrical energy to mechanical work. There brushes and commutators are mechanical parts, and due to this, DC brush motors need higher maintenance when compared to other forms of motors. In terms of starting torque, the DC motor is capable of supplying the highest amount of torque, and due to this reason, it is used in locomotives. When it comes to torque at high speeds, this motor is not the best choice as the torque it provides at high speeds is lower. In terms of efficiency, these motors offer about 75 per cent efficiency.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

DC brushless motors (BLDC): These motors build on the blushed motors and do not use mechanical commutators or brushes. Instead, these motors use an electronic controller to control the current flowing in them, making them a better choice when compared to brush motors. Due to the use of electronics, BLDC motors offer an efficiency of 90 per cent and these motors are widely used in two-wheelers where the maximum power required is on the lower side.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

As explained earlier, the battery pack on an electric vehicle can only supply direct current. Due to this, the motors given above can directly take power from the battery pack. That said, AC motors are also used in electric vehicles, and they need an AC-DC converted to be powered. Given below is a list of AC motors.

Permanent magnet synchronous motor (PMSM): A PMSM is similar to a BLDC motor but uses alternating current instead of direct current. Due to this, these motors are harder to control using electronics but, at the same time, are capable of offering better efficiency when compared to their BLDC counterparts. In addition to this, due to alternating current, they are capable of providing better power outputs when at higher speeds. Due to all the advantages given above, PMSM motors are widely used in electric vehicles.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Induction motors: All the motors given above use permanent magnets to generate torque; on the other hand, the induction motor does not use any magnets. Due to this, they do not require any rare earth metals used to create high strength permanent magnets. In terms of efficiency, the induction motor is less efficient when compared to the PMSM motor but is cheaper when compared to a PMSM.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Due to the rapid adoption of electric vehicles, there is a lot of innovation in the electric motor domain, and giants like Tesla are creating newer motors like the IPM-SynRM motor. These motors try to solve the problems faced by using existing technology.

Also read: Rivian vs Tesla: Can Rivian challenge Tesla in EV?


4 things to consider before buying an EV

Now that we have a basic understanding of all the components that power an electric vehicle, we can look at what you need to look at before making the switch.

Range

Range anxiety is one of the biggest problems in electric vehicles; all you need to consider are your travelling habits and the range your car offers.

What’s important to understand here is how the range on your electric vehicle is calculated. So, the OEM who manufactures the car will claim a particular range, but it’s essential to understand that these numbers are calculated in controlled environments. Therefore the range claimed by an OEM will vary compared to other testing agencies.

In addition to this, the range of an electric vehicle will depend on the way you drive the vehicle and the ambient temperature. Also, it’s essential to understand that completely discharging the battery on your electric vehicle can cause its life to shorten. Therefore you should keep a 20 per cent buffer between the average distance you commute daily and the range of the electric vehicle you plan on buying.


Charging ecosystem

Another vital factor to consider is the charging ecosystem in your area and the places you travel often. Also, it’s important to look at the types of charging ports the chargers offer to know how compatible they are with your vehicle.

Tesla’s charging station

Considering the charging facilities offered in your city can also make your life easier. So, If your city provides a three-phase facility in residential homes, you could use AC fast charging at your home. In addition to this, if you have charging stations with higher power outputs, you will be able to charge faster while using the public charging infrastructure.

  • Know about the charger on your vehicle: The charger on your electric vehicle will help you understand the charging stations you can use to charge your vehicle. This is a critical parameter you should look at before buying a vehicle.
  • Levels of charging supported by your vehicle: It is important to understand the type of power your vehicle can accept while using DC and AC charging. This will help you know the time it will take you to charge your vehicle when you are charging at home or on a public network.
  • Charging station you need: Based on your requirements, you need to know what kind of charging station you need to install at home to charge your vehicle in time.

Warranty

The battery on an electric vehicle is the most expensive component, and most manufacturers offer a warranty. It’s essential to look at the number of years the OEM provides a warranty and the number of kilometres for which it is valid. Therefore, if the battery on your car gives up on you, you can ask the OEM to replace the same.


Power

The acceleration offered by an electric vehicle is unparalleled. If you want to have an experience which pushes you back into the seat when you hit the accelerator, you need to look at the power output of the motor on your electric vehicle.

A motor with a higher power rating will offer better acceleration when compared to motors with lower power output.

Also read: Porsche Taycan Turbo S vs Tesla Model S: The EV Rivalry


Are electric vehicles reducing carbon emissions?

Electric mobility is a step in the right direction but does buying an electric vehicle reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere compared to a conventional vehicle?

If you look at electric vehicles, it might seem that they are better for the environment as they do not release carbon dioxide. However, the emissions for manufacturing an electric vehicle are much higher. This is due to rare-earth metals like cobalt and manganese in the battery pack.

In addition to this, if the electricity used to power an electric vehicle is generated using coal-fired plants, it adds to the car’s carbon emissions.

According to Reuters, a Tesla Model 3 would have to run for more than 21,000 kilometres to break even in terms of carbon emissions compared to Toyota Corolla.

Therefore, it’s essential to understand that electric vehicles need to be charged using electricity from sustainable sources to minimise carbon emissions.

Also read: Revolt RV 400: India’s future commuter?

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