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Battery Electric Vehicles Explained

The Model E battery electric vehicle (BEV) runs entirely on an electric motor and rechargeable battery. Click on the car below to see its features.

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Electric vehicles and "The Model E"

All about the "Model E," a textbook electric vehicle

Background on electric vehicles

Electric vehicle FAQ

Vehicle Technology Center

Battery electric vehicles

Fuel cell electric vehicles

Hybrid electric vehicles

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles

Consumer Information Center

Hybrid vehicle timeline

Hybrid vehicle scorecard (2011)

How battery electric vehicles work

The Model E battery electric vehicle (BEV), like a fuel cell electric vehicle, is an all-electric car. Unlike the hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), which both still need combustion engines to provide some of their power, the Model E BEV runs entirely on an electric motor and rechargeable battery.

When a driver steps on the accelerator pedal, the power controller directs electric current from the battery to the motor, turning the wheels and accelerating the vehicle. When a driver steps on the brake pedal, the controller allows the motor to act as a generator, sending electricity back to the battery to help recharge it, a process called regenerative braking. If a really quick stop is needed, conventional brakes help slow down the vehicle as well.

Instead of carrying around a gasoline tank to store energy, The Model E battery electric vehicle uses a battery pack to store electricity on board. Battery electric vehicles on the market today use lithium-ion technology, which stores more energy per pound than the nickel metal hydrid batteries used in most hybrids, or the lead acid batteries used to start conventional gasoline cars. Research is ongoing to determine the battery technology that can store the most energy at the lowest cost and lowest weight.

Battery electric vehicle range on a full charge

The Model E BEV is designed to go 100 miles before the battery needs to be recharged, though it can also incorporate a 200-mile battery pack at extra cost. Battery electric cars on the market today can go from about 60 to more than 200 miles on a full charge. It is designed to provide this range under most weather conditions.

Recharging a battery electric vehicle like the Model E BEV is as simple as plugging it in to a charger on the wall in your garage or at a public charging station. A 100-mile Model E BEV would take up to 7 hours to fully recharge using a 220 Volt outlet—like those used for a clothes dryer—though home wiring may need to be upgraded to at least 30 amps.

Actual recharge times will likely be less because American’s average daily travel is on the order of 30 miles. Most BEV recharging is likely to be done at home, but you can also check for commercial electric charging stations near you.

Environmental impacts of battery electric vehicles

The Model E BEV can deliver significant reductions in smog-forming and global warming pollution, depending on the makeup of the electric grid where it is charged.

Plugging in to electricity from renewable resources leads to the lowest emissions. Plugging into a natural-gas fired electricity grid would still enable the Model E BEV to outperform the HEV version, but plugging in to a coal-fired electricity grid would not even provide substantial benefits compared to today’s conventional gasoline cars. Learn more about the environmental impacts of electric vehicles here (PDF).

See our FAQ for more information on the regional impact of BEVs on the environment.

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