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Published by: Deep Narula on Mar 03, 2011
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ELECTRIC VEHICLES - How they work Electric vehicles are probably the simplest form of self propelled mechanical

transportation. In it most basic form, the drive train of an electric vehicle consists of a battery attached to an off and on switch which is attached to an electric motor. The electric motor drives the wheels. Most electric vehicles have a more elaborate method to control the amount of electricity going to the motor as well as a system of gears to drive the wheels in a most efficient manner. In addition to the above, "solar powered" vehicles incorporate a solar collector which converts solar energy into electricity which is used to slowly recharge the battery. WHAT THEY CAN AND CAN NOT DO : Many people have the impression that electric cars are pollution free and will eventually replace fossil fuel powered engines. This understanding is rather inaccurate. The fact is that at the present time, electric vehicles can not compete with main stream gasoline, diesel, compressed natural gas and other vehicles in terms of speed, range and overall safety. In addition, electric vehicles create pollution in a number ofdifferent ways. First, most of the electricity we use in the United States is from fossil fuel burning power plants which creates pollution, though usually away from the urban centers. In some cases, electricity produced at nuclear power plants, thoughthese also pose potential risks. Solar power plants are in their infancy, though they may be useful in sunny, areas with little cloud cover. If everyone was to have solar arrays on their property, some people may object to them, similar to how people objected to the early 10 foot satellite dishes. Wind power may also offer some potential to generate electricity, though windmills pollute in terms of visual as well as noise pollution. In January of this year, I drove from Hamburg Germany north towards Denmark and passed a large array of modern windmill electric generators. The first thing that struck me was the loud and continuous wiring sound they put out. Here in New York City, there have been several attempts over the past 25 years to harness wind power. There were windmills on East 10 street between Avenue A and First Avenue, East 5 Street between Avenue A and Avenue B and on East 9 street and the Bowery. In every case, the ownersabandoned the windmills after a year or so presumable since they were not cost effective. Nevertheless such a system may be useful in remote areas. Many of the materials used in electric cars today are toxic. For example the lead, which is the most common element used in conventional deep cycle electric vehicle batteries can be a serious health hazard. In the case of solar panels, many of the panels are manufactured using highly toxic chemicals and the panels themselves can, under the wrong circumstances, pose a health hazard. Many people are concerned about power lines and the possible health effects. In an electric car, you are surrounded by massive amounts of electro-magnetic radiation. To this date, health hazards of this has not been proven. The primary obstacle facing electric vehicles today is the limited storage capacity of economically viable batteries. The most common and probably the best compromise battery is the "deep cycle" lead acid battery...the same type of battery that has been in use for electric vehicles since the 1880's. There are other batteries that do offer greater electrical storage capacity but at either a much higher price, or less overall life or low power output (though higher total storage capacity). Today, most electric cars have a range of about 40 miles per charge at a speed of about 35 to 45 miles per hours. Most smaller electric cars use between 6 and 12 6 volt deep cycle, lead acid batteries. The recharging time is

many car companies have experimented by building lighter or smaller vehicles. though there is not enough energy from sun light per square foot to directly propel a conventional 2500 pound car. France. To increase range. mostelectric cars. Deep cycle lead acid batteries. . It is possible to slowly store solar energy in the batteries to allow the car to move for a limited time. During world war two. Today. SO WHY BOTHER WITH ELECTRIC VEHICLES?Electric vehicles offer a unique driving experience. moisture in the air. Factors such as ambient temperature. even taking into consideration the limitations as outlined above. a very basic electric go cart can be built that can consist of a simple wood frame built out of 2" x 4"s. Japan and others. terrain and how a person drives can substantially decrease these figures. Simple electric vehicles as just described can probably be built in two weeks with minimal skills. my father had seen several electric powered and steam powered private vehicles in Tokyo that clever citizens had converted from gasoline when gasoline was no longer available. With their low center of gravity. many countries started to produce electric vehicles for the population. with proper care. conventional batteries are not are predictable in terms of range and speed as say. you would have to rev up the motor and only then would you be able to drive overthe curb. With an electric vehicle. the charging time is 12 hours to even out the charge among the battery array. In the simplest form. with the same elements as the wooden cart would use. DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS Electric vehicles are fascinating to build and drive. A more sophisticated system would use a go-cart body made out of steel (or perhaps converted from an existing gasoline go-cart). Electric vehicles are so simple in overall construction that they can easily be built by people with basic construction skills. most railroads around theworld use diesel electric locomotives with the diesel engine generating the electricity to power the electric motors which actually turns the wheels. you would be able to climb the curb with out any real effort. Overall. Generally a lighter or smaller vehicle can hold less passengers and in most cases. Electric vehicles are also ideal for use in areas that have very high gasoline costs or where conventional fuel is simplynot available. an electric motor. such as in a high school class. a car battery and a momentary electrical switch to turn the electricity on and off as a gas pedal. This allows a vehicle to do things thatconventional fossil fuels vehicles can not do. basic wheels. if you were to drive up to a street curb with a conventional gasolinepowered car. offer superb handling as wellasrapid initialacceleration. Electric cars weremanufactured during the war in Spain.normally 8 hours and once per week. a gallon of gasoline. Belgium. does not offer the safety of a larger vehicle. can last about 3 years or about 600 charge-discharge cycles. stop and then try to climb the curb. In 1946. American military tanks use the same technique. Electric motors offer almost continuous torque evenat lower speeds. For example. Solar panels have been used to recharge electric vehicles.

Once basic welding techniques are mastered. If the vehicle is to have a body. Surprisingly. Aluminum. I think that it is important for a professor to summarize to the students what materials can be used and then. it is very easy to master basic welding. carbon fiber that probably weighed more then if they had used aluminum or steel tubing. Such a person with auto body and painting skills can make a basic body look like a big three fantasy car. it usually does not offer the same protection that metals offer. you can start to design the vehicle. though in an accident. particularly thin walled steel. while weighing about 60 percent less then steel. one must consider the skill of the builders. Steel and wood are by far the cheapest materials to work with and this should be taken into consideration if cost of the finished vehicle is a factor. than if they had used heavier. With the limited storage capacity of batteries. drafting skills and general design skills. It should be noted that many light weight materials are particularly difficult to work with and often times a person who is not acquainted with the particular engineering of the material will actually build a vehicle that is heavier using the light weight materials. Steel. metal cutting skills. out in California for as little as $129 though prices can also be substantially higher. how many passengers will the vehicle carry? Will there be storage space? Where or how will the vehicle be recharged? Will it be parked on the street? What are the local regulations pertaining to electric vehicles? If the vehicle will be charged from the power grid. it is useful that someone with auto body repair skills be involved in the project. After everything is considered. In a classroom environment. I have seen college student constructed solar powered racing cars using much touted. then and only then should the actual design phase proceed. Wood can often be used for some components. Such basic mig welders can be purchased from mail order companies such as Harbor Freight Tools. A cut off saw capable of using 12 or 14 inch blades is ideal. particularly if using a wire fed "mig" type welder. many seemingly hard projects will look much easier. it is important to design the vehicle using as much light weight materials that can be safely incorporated into the vehicle with cost and skill considerations in mind. For example. with out suggesting a design. is very difficult to weld and requires considerable engineering in order to fully take advantage of the wight difference. The basic skills that will be needed using off the shelf components or surplus components includes welding skills. is the easiest to work with. It will also be necessary to have access to a metal cut-off saw. but easier to use materials. Probably any shop class or machine shop could build a reasonably high quality electric powered car. let the students individually design their vehicle on paper as a homework assignment SKILLS: In building a prototype vehicle. . Welding is essential if the frame of the vehicle is to be made out of steel. though still questionable. it is essential that the designer has a clear understanding of what the function of the final vehicle will have. is the available outlet adequate for charging the vehicle? Once everything of the final vehicle has been written down and considered.DESIGNING: As with all design projects.

Always wear ear plugs. They can also be purchased from a variety of surplus outlets throughout the country.electric vehicle with a body includes: Steel tubing. Drive. you can proceed with the actual construction. easy to handle and are very inexpensive. design the windscreen so that it is curved.You can then cover the wire mesh with fiberglass sheets. Electric wiring and switches can be purchased at most electrical supply houses. Instead. Body. and the components purchased. Another. I prefer to use "unbreakable" Lexan type plastic. The windshield should be made out of a substance with safety in mind. . I normally use the 1/16" thick lexan and for strength.MATERIALS: The basic materials needed to build a steel framed. a 3/4" x 10 foot EMT tube at Home Depot costs about $2. Windshield. face shield. Though some people have used ac motors. though this requires a rather high degree of construction skill. Electric Motor. you can also purchase standard square steel tubes from steel distributors such as Eastern Steel in New York City for very low prices. easy to cut. CONSTRUCTION: After the vehicle has been designed on paper. though I usually cover the mesh first with very thin layer of plaster and fabric strips to give the mould strength and then cover it with the fiberglass. I prefer to use basic 1/2" to 1" EMT electrical tubes. There are several ways to shape the body. If you prefer. One way is to use a very large styrofoam block that can be sanded using an electric sander to the correct shape and then covered first with Elmers type white glue and then covered with fiberglass. I much prefer to use DC motors. The pulley and belt systemis probably the easiest system to use. properly lighted room. For example. proper protective clothing and work in a well ventilated. The standard length of steel tubes form distributors is 20 feet or 24 feet. Safety should never be compromised. You can use a number of systems to couple theelectric motor to the wheels including sprocket gear andchain. They are light weight. The finish can be made perfect with the help of an auto body expert who will smooth out imperfections and then paint the resulting vehicle to high standards. One to three HP DC motors can be purchased in scrap yards (not to be confused with auto junk yards) for under $100. It is also possible to mould the windscreen using either a vacuum or compression system.50 in New York City. While conventional car windshields are useful. I have found them to be generally too heavy for my vehicles. cheaper and less messy way is to use chicken wire mesh to shape the body over a basic metal frame. pulley and belt or similar.

No matter how much preparation is made in designing the vehicle. As with all prototypes. Almost all states have special provisions for electric cars. Further. Initial test drives should not be conducted on public roads but rather on private property. I have found that a department store type rolling coat rack can be utilized as a welding jig with the use of vice grips to hold the metal that is being welded together. LEGAL REQUIREMENTS The federal government as well as all states have strict rule for motor vehicles manufacturers. one can never predict the effects of every possible design feature. it will probably be necessary to made minor and possibly major modifications before the vehicle is ready for general use. at the slowest possible speed. Further. some states have special regulations that are easier to conform to for slow moving vehicles or specialty vehicles such as snow mobiles. After the body has been built. Construction of a basic vehicle. capable of holding two people should not take more than 60 hours of actual construction time. Before the body can be incorporated on to the vehicle. most states allow human powered vehicles with power assists to operate on local roads without having to be registered. or all terrain vehicles. These provisions may be useful to know when designing the vehicle. After the frame has been welded together add the steering mechanism and electric drive components.First cut out the immediate metal frame parts and weld them together. it is normally more difficult to make possible modifications to the mechanical components. . it is essential that the vehicle is in complete working order. though it may take as little as 25 hours.

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