driving an electric car

driving an electric car

Driving an electric car is like driving an automatic car. There are no gears, and only two pedals: accelerator and brake. There is a switch or lever for drive, neutral, and reverse. Just switch it on, select D or Drive, press the accelerator, and the car will go. To reverse, brake to a stop. Select R or Reverse, press the accelerator, and the car will reverse.

drive selector knob

Driving an electric car is so easy

There is nothing complicated about driving an electric car. We have to get away from calling the accelerator pedal the “gas” pedal as the car uses no gas. The accelerator pedal is connected to a controller: a box of electronics like a small computer, which takes the input from the accelerator pedal and tells the electric motor how fast to turn.

electric car pedals

The motor controller and its purpose

The controller also regulates the power applied to the drive wheels. What is not often understood is that right from a dead stop, the full power of the motor is available. In some circumstances, this full torque could cause great damage to the transmission, wheels, or tyres. This potential problem has been eliminated by the manufacturers who programme the controller so that this does not happen. At the top speed of the car, the controller is programmed to avoid excessive speed for a similar reason. As there are no gears in an electric car, excessive speed could also do similar damage to the mechanics.

electric car controller

Reversing

When reverse is selected, the maximum reverse speed is also regulated by the controller so that the car cannot shoot back at an uncontrollable speed. The controller has further help built into its programme too and a couple of great things are that the car will not roll backwards when Drive is selected. the car will stand perfectly still on an upward incline without touching the brake or the accelerator. This is known as hill-hold or hill start assist. Simply pressing the accelerator will pull away smoothly. The same thing happens when Reverse is selected. If the car is facing downhill with the power switched on and Reverse selected, the car will again stand perfectly still until the accelerator is pressed when it will again move smoothly backwards.

It should be noted that this “hill-hold” effect is only available when the power is on. If the power is switched off, the car will immediately roll away. Always be sure that the parking brake is engaged before leaving the car.

hill start assist

regenerative braking

Electric cars have no engine and gearbox to help hold a car back on a hill so when going downhill, the brake has to be used more than with an ICE-powered car. What it does have, is a system built in which helps to slow the car as it goes downhill and that system uses the energy supplied by the forward motion of the car to generate power by using the electric motor as a generator. That electricity is fed back to the batteries to recoup some power. This is referred to as regenerative braking.

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