Standard Motors And Electric Cars – What’s The Difference?

Electric cars are a hot topic at the moment. The advances in modern technology make streets filled with battery powered, rechargeable cars less a science fiction image, and more a realistic event that could take place as soon as the next decade. But apart from the obvious, what is the difference between your regular petrol guzzler and the eco-friendly motor of the future?

Well firstly, there’s the biggest plus point to electric (and hybrid, for that matter) cars – lower emissions. Cars that run on electricity don’t emit Co2 – it’s as simple as that. We’re all well aware of the effect Co2 is having on our planet, so the fact that electric cars don’t do this is the major deciding factor, and also one of the reasons they are being championed so heavily by environmental groups and some government bodies.

Nissan Leaf

image copyright EarthTechling

The second major difference is in cost of fuel, or ‘fuel economy’. The cost of the electricity required to power an electric car is significantly cheaper than that of regular fuel such as petrol or diesel. However, some people have remarked that when the time comes that more people are using electric than regular cars, the cost of electricity (for this purpose at least), will rise steeply. Citing the laws of supply and demand, these detractors oppose the idea of electric cars as a cost effective option.

Another difference between regular cars and electric cars is the amount of maintenance and upkeep they require. Through necessity, fuel led cars are complicated – the mechanics and science behind making a car move via petrol or diesel is significantly more complicated than with electricity. Here, value for money is a true benefit, as maintenance costs will be lower through easier to maintain engines.

Finally, the amount of miles that the two cars can respectively cover is massively different. Petrol and other fuel based cars can run for considerably longer than their electric counterpart. This is mainly due to the electric battery needing to be recharged after about 150km, whereas a fuel based cares can do hundreds of km on a full tank. Supporters of the electric car have highlighted, however, that with more people viewing the electric car as a realistic option instead of used cars, manufacturers will invest more time and money in producing long life batteries that can match the might of fuel based engines.


  • Reply February 2, 2012


    The comment about more demand for electricity causing the price to rise is not true. Because electric utilities need to have enough generation capacity to meet peak demand on a hot day with air conditioners going full blast, the generating capacity is underutilized at night when demand drops to about half that of daytime. Consequently, the price charged for electricity during off-peak times is very low. This is when most people will charge their cars. Here in California, the utilities give us a special low rate if we charge during these off-peak time and most EV owner do just that. Hey, we’re asleep anyway, might as well, right?

    • Reply February 4, 2012


      EV’s are a solution to lowering energy cost. nnTaking the fact that power is less expensive in off-peak hours and that an EV battery can store that cheaper power, the car can feed that lower-cost power to a house, business or back to the grid during the expensive peak hours.nEV batteries can be purchased in bulk, charge during the off-peak hours and use that energy during the day. Reducing the peak load requirements that are needed now. A parking lot full of plugged in EV’s at an office complex can be the battery storage as well.nEV’s are a true solution.

  • Reply February 3, 2012

    Chato Mate

    “Cars that run on electricity donu2019t emit Co2 u2013 itu2019s as simple as that.” That is the most simpleton comment I have ever heard. Electricity comes from burning fossil fuels, which all emit CO2!u00a0 In fact,more CO2 is probably emitted by the plant (coal burning) than to run the same car with a gas engine. The writer is a typical product of this nations public schools!u00a0

    • Reply February 4, 2012


      Is it the CAR that emits the CO2 or the POWER PLANT? They are two different things, right?

    • Reply February 4, 2012


      Actualy Hydro electric, solar, tidal, wind,geo thermal,wave and neuclear plants burn no fossil fuels at all. As these plants become accepted by the rest of the contry as they have in progressive contries and the western states, the arguments only grow stronger. It is commenly understood and backed up by several studies that powering a vehicle using a electric motor and a lithium battery bank, charged by a coal plantu00a0produces as little asu00a0one third of theu00a0co emmisions as au00a0internal cumbustion engine vehicle, and that fails to take into consideration the extreamly high and subsidised energy costs of producing a gallonu00a0of gas or diessel from well to pump.u00a0

      • Reply February 9, 2012


        Just about any renewable energy source is much higher subsidized than any fossil fuel.u00a0 Not to mention the energy that it takes to produce the batteries and the associated carbon footprint or disposing of them when they wear out.u00a0 Every time you convert energy to a different form there are losses.u00a0 Electric to mechanical is usually around 90%, electric to chemical i.e. charging a battery is quite a bit less than that.u00a0 Around 60% at the very best.u00a0 Then there are all the losses in the circuits and friction etc. Overall the energy efficiency of an electric car is about 40%.u00a0 Then take the fact that the average power plant is probably only about 60% energy efficient, and we’re left with about 24% of the energy that was contained in the original fossil fuel is converted to making the electric car move. A conventional vehicle by contrast is about 35% efficient.u00a0 More bang for your buck besides being a heck of a lot better to drive.u00a0 Heavy investments in electric cars do just not make sense from a green point of view or any other point of view other than a personal agenda.

        • Reply February 20, 2012


          This isn’t true: “Overall the energy efficiency of an electric car is about 40%.” EV’s are upwards of 60% efficient, they can be 75% easily as well”.

          This is not true either: “electric to chemical i.e. charging a battery is quite a bit less than that.  Around 60% at the very best. ” Research lead-acid, nickel metal hydride, and lithium-ion batteries. Especially li-ion. li-ion batteries are at least 80%, and lithium iron phosphate batteries are 95% efficient. Lead-acid is 50%-80%.

    • Reply February 13, 2012


      at least the co2 in made in america and what about solar charging staions get with ut!

    • Reply March 15, 2012


      You are right.  It’s called, “The long tailpipe”.  I would dispute your statement that producing the energy to make an electric go 100 miles would produce more carbon than burning the gas.  You would have to factor in the energy used to produce the gas too.  But that’s just my gut.

      I agree that the authors failure to discuss the issue of the long tailpipe is a glaring omission.  To use that omission as an indictment of our public schools is unsubstantiated and just plain mean spirited.

      But back to the issue of electrics, which would you rather regulate, clean up, replace?  200 million cars or 2000 power plants.  Going to an electric car is an act of faith that we will be able to green up our power plants.  I am a man of faith and I happen to believe that we can produce electricity more sustainably.  Getting the electrics now along with the infrastructure to charge them positions us nicely for that day. 

      Second point.  Electrics are far more efficient in their use of the energy they have on board.  Depending on what statistics you use, an electric is 60-90% efficient.  Internal combustion only moves about 15% of the energy in the gas to the wheels.

  • Reply February 5, 2012

    Butros Al Wostani

    So, if electric cars are that much “simpler”, why the hell are they so much more expensive?u00a0 Sounds like a scam to me.

    • Reply February 9, 2012


      The biggest cost of Electric Cars is the Battery. Fortunately there are many companies working on better and cheaper batteries for vehicles. The price will come down over the next ten years due to savings in producing many batteries.

      • Reply March 28, 2012


        Batteries have improved by about 8% a year for the past 20 years, that’s why we are having this discussion now. And will all be moot points in ten years. Why? Depends on your point of view. But the technology will continue forward.

    • Reply February 20, 2012


      Simpler does not mean cheaper. This is obvious in many technologies. They consist of three main components: Electric motor (one moving part), speed controller (electronically simple current regulating device with just a fan or two), and the battery pack, with is tens of thousands. The battery back is the most expensive part.

  • Reply February 19, 2012


    The cars are going to haul your food from east to west coast to. RIGHT?????

  • Reply February 22, 2012

    Done Better, Cheaper Before

    A gasoline engine is less than 10% efficient (lots of wasted heat), the best natural gas power plant approaches 30%, electric cars are better than 90% efficient.

    Charging an electric car from a natural gas powered electrical grid still gives 27% efficiency.

    Electric cars are perfect for short & medium distance commuters (less than 60 miles each way).

    Electric cars are (currently) a niche product. You don’t take it on long hauls, just like you (usually) don’t take a Corvette to go camping.

    Extra credit: what’s the difference between an engine and a motor?

    Hint: Steam Engine, gasoline engine, vs electric motor.

  • Reply March 3, 2012


    The arguments for battery powered vehicles being promulgated here are ludicrous. We can’t produce battery powered anythings that don’t fall far short of expectations and necessities. Every battery powered appliance I have ever used is problematic: drills, lights, shavers, scrubbers, vacuum cleaners, sanders, toothbrushes, flossers. The only battery powered appliances that make sense are engine starters and power backup systems: and that’s because they’re constantly hooked up to REAL power souces. The Chevy Volt isn’t dying because people aren’t interested in conserving energy: it’s because they don’t, and can’t, meet the requirements of the task at hand.

  • Reply April 1, 2012


    The electricity in the car comes from generated electricity which makes pollution.  I have recently read that 75% of CO emissons in America comes from electric power generation.  Much of this from burning coal.  If we had widespread use of electric cars as advocated by this article and most environmental advocates, the worst problem for the environment, in my opinion, would be the disposal of the highly toxic contents of old batteries, now exponentially greater because of the new use in transportation.  How could a scientifically oriented publication ignore this?

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