How to build an electric car

With electric car’s now quickly taking center stage, some folks are wondering how manufacturers are going about building them. Now, we’re not going to take you step-by-step on how a manufacturer builds an electric car, but we are going to at least try to answer most of the questions that surround the process, such as “how much does it cost to build an electric car?” or “how long do electric cars last?”

Electric cars are a fantastic mechanical innovation, but people aren’t used to them or comfortable with them yet. That said, people have a lot of questions that they wanted to be answered before they consider even buying one.

Ready to find out all of the commonly asked questions on how to build an electric car? Follow along below — we’ve got answers.

How much does it cost to build an electric car?

We’re never going to know an accurate estimate on how much an electric car costs to build. Companies like General Motors and Tesla are going to keep those numbers under wraps, as they do not need to give competitors that sort of information. That said, we cannot get exact numbers, but industry-leading analysts can provide us with a pretty good estimate on how much it costs to build an electric car.

And it does vary from electric car to electric car. For example, analysts estimate that the Chevy Bolt EV sits at around $28,700 to build. That doesn’t necessarily include information on the cost of all the software that goes into it.

For building it, General Motors product chief Mark Reuss made a statement that it costs GM $145 per kilowatt-hour for the lithium-ion battery cells in the Bolt EV.

For a Tesla Model 3, it’s estimated that the company is paying $29,878 per Model 3 built. Analysts suggest that Tesla is losing money on base Model 3 cars, with the selling price sitting at only $35,000. That could be why Tesla is prioritizing sales to California residents, existing Tesla owners, and buyers who spec out their Teslas.

Can you make an electric car faster?

The short answer is that, yes, you can make an electric car faster. Usually, this is through tuning the software or by upgrading the batteries, but if you have a lot of technical know-how, or don’t mind paying a specialist, it is certainly possible.

Jason Fenske, over at Engineering Explained, created a video on how electric cars turn energy into a rotating force. From there, Fenske shows you how that force is used to spin the wheels. And finally, from there, Fenske can tell us if it is possible to make an electric car faster. His synopsis is that yes, it is, but there is only so much power that each component can handle.

So, yes, you can make an electric car faster. But it more comes down to a question of, should you make an electric car faster? Watch Fenske’s video and find out for yourself. But, one important thing to remember is that, for the most part, electric cars are being built as commuter cars, and not necessarily for the track.

Some electric vehicles are being built for the track, but right now, consumer-level electric cars are primarily produced as commuter cars.

What motor is used in electric cars?

Three different motors are used in electric cars, and the one used often depends on the manufacturer and production design. These three different types of electric motors are the BLDC motor, a brushed DC motor, or an AC induction motor.

A Brushless DC motor (BLDC) is one of the most commonly electric motors used in electric cars, because of all the benefits that they offer. A BLDC motor, in particular, comes with low maintenance — a primary thing that electric car owners are concerned about. They have high operating speeds, are 80-90% more efficient than other electric car motors, are compact in size, have no brush sparking, and have a quick response time.

Some older electric car designs use standard DC motor. However, DC motors aren’t always the way to go, so they are pretty inefficient as far as battery power goes. AC induction motors are another type of electric motor uses in some vehicles. They’re nice because of their available to handle large acceleration torques relative to their weight for short intervals of time; however, they often have a problem with overheating.

How much does your electric bill go up with an electric car?

How much your electric bill goes up depends on electricity rates at the time of charging. If a company is charging you per kWh — say $0.11 per kWh — and you are trying to charge up a fully depleted 24 kWh battery, you’re looking at around $2.64 to juice it up. That’s significantly less expensive than gas, but keep in mind that energy rates vary all the time.

It’s also worth keeping in mind how much you’re going to spend when you’re on the road — how much are your charging stations going to cost you?

Overall, and according to the U.S. Department of Energy, you should be using less power than it takes to keep a water heater running yearly:

“General Motors estimates the annual energy use of the Chevy Volt is about 2,520 kilowatt-hours, which is less energy than what is required to power a typical water heater or central air conditioning.”

Can I convert my car to electric?

It is certainly possible to convert a gas-powered vehicle to electric. However, it’s going to require some significant modifications, as well as overhauling, well, the majority of the car. On top of the technical know-how required, it’s significantly expensive. For an older vehicle, like a Porsche 911, you’re going to be looking at around $8,000 for an electronic conversion kit. The parts are certainly available, though.

If you can’t do it yourself, you’re going to be looking at a whole lot more to get your car street-ready.

How long do electric cars last?

The electric car itself should last you a lifetime. The parts inside it, not so much. But even so, things are still relatively low maintenance. Many car manufacturers rate the batteries to last ten years before they need replacing again. All-electric cars sold in the United States are covered by an 8-year warranty or up to 100,000 miles.

Kia does one better and covers the battery packs in its electric cars for 10 years/100,000 miles, whichever comes first. Hyundai might offer up the best warranty so far, putting lifetime coverage on the battery packs in its cars.

That said, most manufacturers are only going to replace that battery should the battery pack have a complete loss of its ability to hold a charge. With how far battery technology has advanced, that is an infrequent occurrence.

But, when it comes to other automakers like BMW, Chevrolet, and, of course, Tesla — and others — they will replace the pack if it falls below a set capacity percentage while under warranty, which is usually 60-70 percent.

There’s no specific date on when an electric car’s battery is going to die, but you won’t have to worry about it for a long time. For example, Tesla’s batteries, when they hit 50,000 miles, are only rated to have lost five percent of its original capacity. According to Tesla, after that first 50,000 miles, the depletion rate in the batteries should slow down.

So while it varies from car to car, an electric car is going to last you a long time.

Why do electric cars accelerate so fast?

There are a lot of reasons why electric cars accelerate so fast, but one of those reasons is that — such as in the case of Teslas — there are two electric motors, one on each wheel. It’s worth making an important distinction — electric cars can accelerate faster, but gas cars have a higher top speed.

Electric cars accelerating so fast usually comes down to the lack of a transmission. In a gas-powered vehicle, power has to move from the engine to the transmission and then to each of the drive wheels to accelerate. That’s a pretty long process, and it’s said that about 15% of engine power is lost during the travel time through the drivetrain, otherwise known as drivetrain loss.

That’s all in comparison to having electronic motors sitting on each wheel in the case of, say, the Model 3. There’s so much less travel time when the motors are sitting right on wheels. You also have no drivetrain loss.

The biggest problem with electric cars right now is lasting over the long haul. You get pretty good range in electric cars right now, with many of them sitting at well over 300 miles a charge; however, charging takes a long time — it can be as little as 30 minutes to as much as 12 hours. That’s much more than the five minutes it takes to fill up your gasoline-powered vehicle.

Verdict

As you can see, building an electric car is a pretty complicated process. There is a lot that goes into it, and of course, so many questions that surround these new vehicles.

Do you have any questions about electric vehicles? Let us know in the comments section below, and we’ll do our best to help answer!