How Does an Electric Motor Work?

The onslaught of electric vehicles is coming. Some such as the Tesla Model 3 and Chevrolet Bolt are already here, … Continued

The onslaught of electric vehicles is coming. Some such as the Tesla Model 3 and Chevrolet Bolt are already here, but they remain a bit of a mystery to much of the general public. Whereas we’ve had more than  100 years to rectify our knowledge about the internal combustion engine, what do you actually know about an electric car and how its motors operate?

Luckily for you, Car Bibles’ electrified editors have done the homework, read the research, and pulled apart a Porsche for good measure—just kidding, Porsche wouldn’t loan us one, no clue why. To properly wrap your head around how an electric motor works, follow along and dig in.

How Does an Electric Motor Work?

There are two types of electric motors, ones that use alternating current and others that uses direct current. Magic, however, is not involved. Here’s how they differ.

  • Direct Current Motor (DC)

A DC motor converts direct energy into torque through a simple process. A static magnet, or stator, uses its magnetic field to rotate an inner coil carrying the electric current supplied by the battery. The rotational force generates torque and powers the driven wheels of an electric car.

  • Alternating Current Motor (AC)

An AC motor converts an alternating current into torque through a simple process. The AC motor’s static electromagnet forms a ring around an internal conductive metal axle similar to that of a hamster wheel. Unlike a DC motor where energy is sent to the inner coil, an AC motor’s energy is sent to the static electromagnet, which then rotates the inner axle and produces torque.

How Does an Electric Car Battery Work?

Pretty much like any ordinary rechargeable battery, to be frank. Energy goes in, the battery temporarily stores that energy, the energy is sent to the electric motor or motors, and the motors use that energy to power the wheels. You can learn more about how electric car batteries work in Car Bibles’ How Do Electric Car Batteries Work.

A VW electric drivetrain on a white background.
Volkswagen will soon offer

What Can You Do To Increase Your Battery Life?

A lot! One of the key things to do is to ensure you maintain your vehicle according to its scheduled maintenance. Make sure you’re hitting every milestone and your car will keep going and going and going. Get it? Like the Energizer bunny!

You can also head on over to Car Bibles’ article on How to Get the Best Tesla Battery Life which talks about this very topic!

What Affects Electric Vehicle Charging Speed?

Need to know exactly what affects your EV’s charging speeds? Great! Car Bibles already did an exhaustive look at that very topic in our guide, How Long Does It Take to Charge a Tesla?

Car Bible’s Glossary for EVs

Welcome to Bible school!

  • Hybrid

Simply stated, a hybrid car is one that uses both gasoline and electrical energy to operate. This is accomplished through the use of a gasoline engine/range-extending power generator, and/or a battery pack.

  • EV

An EV, or electric vehicle, is one that runs on electric battery power alone. It does not derive any power directly from the burning of fossil fuels.

  • MPGe

MPGe stands for “mile per gallon-equivalent” and refers to a hybrid or fully electric vehicle’s energy efficiency over an average distance in the same way an MPG refers to a gasoline engine’s efficiency over an average distance.

  • kWh

kWH stands for kilo-watt per hour and refers to the max output of an electric vehicle’s battery. In some parts of the world, it can also refer to the power output of a motor, including those powered by gasoline or diesel.

  • Volt

Named after Italian physicist Alessandro Volta—not the righteous band The Mars Volta—a volt is a unit of electromotive force.

Your Questions, Our Answers on Electric Motors

Your burning questions answered.

Q: How are Electric Motors Made?

A: When a mommy electric motor loves a daddy electric motor…

Just kidding. Electric motors are built like just about every other type of motor, by manufacturers and third-party suppliers. Most EVs get their motors from their parent company. Others like Sony’s Vision S Concept, however, are meant for other manufacturers to slap their badges across, similar to how some companies use Chevrolet’s LT and LS motors for bespoke cars.

Q: How Do You Make an Electric Motor More Powerful?

A: I see you’re interested in hot-rodding your EV. Welcome to the 2020 scene! There are a few ways to make your motor more powerful, such as: using a stronger magnet inside the motor, increasing the loops of the rotating coil, and adding more coils. You can also just send a bunch more power through the motor, but you may end up needing a new one once you’re done overclocking it. Or, you know, just buy a more powerful motor.

Q: What Is the Difference Between An Electric Generator And An Electric Motor?

A: An electric generator is essentially a gasoline-powered range extender that doesn’t supply power to the wheels, but instead charges the car’s battery. BMW’s i3 is one example of a hybrid that uses a range extender.

Q: Should I Charge My Electric Car Every Night?

A: Yes, but make sure you set the max charge to only 90-percent as that will reduce the thermal load and protect the battery pack’s longevity.

Video on Electric Motors

Car Bibles’ editors understand that not everyone is a text-based learner. For those kinesthetic people out there, we have your back with a video showing you exactly how electric motors work. We pulled it from one of our favorite, and most trusted, sources and it’s a great additional resource.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWcmUgKP1GU

Car Bible’s Favored EV Related Products

You can buy car seat products at almost every auto parts and baby store. As well as online stores like Amazon. You have a sea of options to select from. We picked the best Home EV Chargers, which we think you’d benefit from. These are some of the best, reasonably priced, products around.

Disclosure: Carbibles.com is also a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associate Programs, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Pages on this site may include affiliate links to Amazon and its affiliate sites on which the owner of this website will make a referral commission

Jonathon Klein
Jonathon Klein

Jonathon has jumped Aston Martins for Automobile Magazine, clocked 200 mph in a McLaren 720S for Playboy, and sampled his best life behind the wheel of a Ferrari Dino Evo for Road & Track. He’s hopelessly addicted to the strongest coffee he can brew. Please send him more. Contact the author here.