Electric vehicle guide

Electric vehicle guide

Questions & Answers

Sales of electric cars are picking up pace around the world. Until recently they were thought of as specialized products, but nowadays almost all car manufacturers are launching electric models, with ever-growing autonomous range.

According to the International Energy Agency’s Global Electric Vehicle Outlook 2018, there are at least three million electric cars on the world’s streets at the moment. While this number still makes up a small percentage of the world’s cars, the number of electric vehicles has increased 20-fold in the past six years (Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance).

The largest numbers of electric cars are to be found in China, Europe, and North America. Projections by Bloomberg New Energy Finance predict that this market will continue to grow rapidly.

A lot of people are talking about different models of electric cars and hybrids, so let’s clear up the difference:
  • Completely electric vehicles (known as “Battery Electric Vehicles”): the only energy storage on board is a large battery. One or more electric motors are used to generate mechanical force (and energy is recovered from regenerative braking). Can be charged using the electricity grid.
  • Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs): have a battery power storage system that can be plugged into the electricity grid, as well as a conventional gasoline engine (with fuel tank). The internal combustion engine and the electric motor are used to generate mechanical force (and energy is recovered from regenerative braking).
  • Conventional Hybrid Electric Vehicles (or Full Hybrids): have a battery power storage system that cannot be plugged into the electricity grid, as well as a conventional gasoline engine (with fuel tank). The internal combustion engine and the electric motor are used to generate mechanical force (and energy is recovered from regenerative braking).


Many people still think of electric transport as something distant from their everyday lives, part of a distant world shrouded in myths and falsehoods. But the fact is that electric cars are ready to become the vehicles of the future. There are more than five million of them on the streets right now, and a million were bought in 2017 alone. At the moment, most of the world’s electric vehicles are located in China, the United States, Japan, Norway, the United Kingdom, and France (Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance).

Electric cars offer a number of advantages: 

  • They are environmentally friendly
  • They are more efficient than conventional cars
  • They have enough battery range to cover normal daily drives
  • Prices are dropping, making them ever more affordable
  • They are fun and exciting to drive

There are four key features to consider:

  • Battery capacity: this is equivalent to the fuel tank capacity for an internal combustion car, and is measured in kWh.
  • Autonomy: depends on the battery capacity; for models currently available in China, value range from 120 kilometers for the Citroen Berlingo to 300 kilometers for the BMW i3. A number of other factors can also affect autonomy, like personal driving style, highways conditions, outside temperature, heating, air conditioning, and preheating.
  • Maximum on-board battery charger power: battery charger power depends on voltage, which can be 220V (single phase) or 400V (three phase), and the charging current (such as 10 A, 16 A, 24 A, 32 A, etc.); total values range from 2.2kW (slow AC charging with a cable from a domestic power socket) to 50kW (DC fast charging). That determines how fast the battery can be charged.
  • Charging cable: vehicles can be compatible with one or more kinds of charging cable, which should be supplied when you buy or lease a car. You can use them at public charging stations, or at home.

Electric cars cost less to maintain than normal internal combustion cars. Electric motors have far fewer moving parts that wear out (like the clutch) and do not have consumable fluids, unlike regular cars. That makes them cheaper and easier to maintain. Regenerative braking even reduces wear on brake pads. Finally, the main batteries in electric cars last about as long as a conventional internal combustion engine car does, so there is no need for extra maintenance.

Electric cars can be maintained by their manufacturers, or by authorized mechanics.

When it comes to commuting to and from work or school, going out with friends, or even delivering products, average daily drives in most countries come out to between 40 and 60 kilometers. (Source: Goldman Sachs “Journal of Modern Power Systems and Clean Energy, 2015”). In any case, 95% of car journeys are no longer than 200 kilometers, according to a study by the US National Household Travel Survey (NHTS).

Whatever route you take, these distances can easily be covered by the electric cars that are already available on the market.

The average autonomy of electric cars is sufficient to cover 95% of daily drives.

Modern electric cars are already more environmentally friendly than anything else on the market: the emit less CO2 and other pollutants, as they are the only technology that completely does away with location emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) when driving. What is more, emerging carbon-neutral clean power generation methods are allowing us to move towards a sustainable electric transport system with zero CO2 emissions.

With almost entirely carbon-free power generation - the predicted scenario for the year 2050 - emissions throughout the process of manufacturing and using an electric car will approach zero.

Electric vehicles improve air quality. Particularly in major cities, this can help reduce direct impacts on people’s health, reducing medical and healthcare costs.

Finally, it is important to think about the noise pollution and car exhaust fumes that we have to put up with on a daily basis. Electric cars are silent, and can allow major improvements in people’s quality of life.

Not at all! Electric cars use just one third as much energy as internal combustion cars, to cover the same distance. Or in other words, they can travel three times as far as a gasoline car, using the same amount of energy.

Turning crude oil to power in a gasoline car takes a number of energy-intensive steps:

  • Refining the oil into gasoline
  • Shipping
  • Turning the gasoline into mechanical power in the motor

The total efficiency of this process is about 18-19%

Contrast that with the situation for electric vehicles:

  • Power generation
  • Transmission over the grid
  • Turning electrical energy (stored in the batteries) into power in the motor. 

Total efficiency can reach some 52%.

Great efficiency and energy savings allow electric transport to help achieve the emissions reductions set forth in the Paris Agreement (COP21), which was signed at the twenty-first annual conference of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, forming national commitments for energy efficiency and emissions reductions.

What is more, the usage of one million new electric vehicles would only increase domestic power consumption by 0.3%. That figure was calculated based on average power consumption of 0.15 kWh/km for fully electric cars, and 0.25kWh/km for plug-in hybrids, covering an average distance of 10,000 kilometers per year for the electric cars and 5,000 kilometers per year for the hybrids, with 60% of charging done at public electricity recharge stations. Based on these estimates, a million more electric cars would consume a total of 1.3 TWh per year.

Electric cars actually help the power grid - they don’t just use electricity, they also work as ‘batteries on wheels’.

Smart charging systems mean that when a car is not being charged, the electrical energy stored in its battery can be used to provide power to the grid, or it can charge up during times of day when electricity is cheaper. In countries with regulatory systems that allow these flexible service technologies to work, they can provide benefits not just for power grid operators but also for customers, whose cars can charge up while prices are lower, and return the power the network when prices are higher.

Introduction to electric mobility

Read our introduction guide to electric mobility