EV Enlightenment: A Guide to Understanding Electric Vehicle Tech Specs
With so many new EVs coming on the market, figuring out which one is best for you can be daunting, especially when you don’t know how to compare one EV to the next or any EV to a traditionally fueled vehicle.
Well, you’re in luck because we dove into the EV world to bring you a set of tools that you can use to help guide you when you’re ready to buy your next all-electric vehicle. Moreover, we tapped engineer and battery expert Dmytro Fohel from Kyiv’s Polytechnic Institute to help guide us through the confusing world of EV technology.
EV Range = Tank Capacity
“Range” refers to the distance an EV can travel on a full charge. Fun Fact: In the US, the vehicle range is certified by the EPA and listed on the aggregator site fueleconomy.gov.
However, EV range is an estimate and can vary widely based on driving conditions, weather, your driving style, and terrain. In some cases, for example, when the temperature drops below freezing, your range could diminish by as much as 50% on some EVs, so it’s important to ask the dealer about that.
“Generally, the higher the range rating, the longer you can travel between charges, even in less than ideal conditions,” said Fohel.
Charging = Gassing Up
With the infrastructure of EV chargers still growing, most new EV buyers choose to install a level 2 fast AC charger at home. These chargers start at around $400 and can be hardwired into your home’s electrical panel or plugged into a 240-volt outlet (known as a NEMA 14-50), which looks like an electric dryer outlet. A popular example of these at-home chargers is the line of Juicebox products manufactured by North American energy company Enel.
“When hardwired, these level 2 chargers offer up to 11.5 kW, or, when connected to a 40 amp NEMA outlet, up to 9.6 kW,” explained Fohel. For example, if you’re charging the new Mercedes-Benz EQE’s 91 kWh battery from 10% to 100% charge, it will take roughly 7.5 to 9.5 hours, depending on how your home charger is installed. In terms of range, this typically equals roughly 14 to 35 miles for every hour your EV’s battery is charged.
Charging at home takes longer, but it is the best bang for your buck. If you use what’s called a DC fast charging station (what you see in Wal-Mart parking lots and the like) at a public charging location, it can, depending on your EV, do so much faster than a home charger, but you’ll be charged by the kilowatt.
Charging Speed = Pump Time
Another component to choosing your EV is to consider the amount of charge that a vehicle’s battery can accept in one hour. This metric is particularly important when using DC public charging stations, like those you would encounter on a road trip. For example, the Ford Mustang Mach E charges at a maximum speed of 150 kW, while the Kia EV6 GT charges at up to 350 kW. If you’re actually able to find a DC charger capable of charging at 350 kW then this can essentially cut your charging time in half.
Battery Efficiency = Miles per Gallon (E)
Just like gasoline-powered cars, some EVs are more efficient than others. The U.S. government uses an EV metric called miles per gallon of gasoline equivalent (MPGe). An electric vehicle that gets a 100 MPGe rating can travel 100 miles on 33.7 kWh of electricity, as the EPA defines one gallon of gas as the equivalent of 33.7 kilowatt-hours (kWh). Every new EV sold has a “fuel economy” rating in MPGe, so understanding this will help you determine how efficient an EV will be.
For example, GM’s new Hummer EV is rated at 47 MPGe combined (city and highway), while the most efficient Porsche Taycan is rated at 83 MPPGe. “The efficiency of the EV is related to many different factors, including the vehicle’s weight, aerodynamics, the efficiency of the electric motors, the battery’s thermal management system, regenerative braking quality, climate control, and the operating system of the vehicle,” added Fohel.
Kilowatts = Horsepower (Kind Of)
When reading about EVs, you will see references to an electric motor’s power output. Typically measured in kilowatts, an electric motor’s power output can also be calculated in traditional horsepower. However, a direct one-to-one comparison is something akin to comparing the Euro to the U.S. dollar; many factors influence the conversion.
That said, in a purely technical sense, 1hp equals .746 kilowatts. For example, the new Rivan R1S SUV lists a total battery output of 623 kW, but its horsepower conversion is over 800hp.
Torque = Torque
Thankfully, EV torque is generally listed in traditional lb-ft (or Newton meters). However, this is another area where you can’t really compare EVs to traditionally fueled autos so directly because any EV is quicker out of the gate than a comparable fueled car. Something like the experimental Pininfarina Battista EV boasts an incredible torque of 1,741 lb-ft (2,360 Nm), and it is only number three on the list of top-torque EVs.