Electric Vehicles

Background

Electric vehicles are powered in some capacity by an electric motor and use it to improve the vehicle’s efficiency, while reducing its carbon footprint (see three types here). Battery-powered EVs produced in the US in 2023 can travel an average of 270 miles per charge and can be charged at a growing network of charging stations nationwide (see map). 

Since 2020, sales of EVs have taken off. In 2023, the US sold 1.6 million EVs, a 60% increase from 2022. California, Florida, Texas, and Washington lead the nation in EV registrations, with Tesla owning more than 50% of the market share (see stats). 

History

In 1900, electric cars accounted for over a third of US automobiles and were a status symbol of the wealthy and business class (see photos). They were most popular among women, who reportedly disliked the noise and smell of hand-cranked gasoline vehicles.  

The discovery of the first oil gusher in Texas in 1901, which drastically lowered the price of gasoline, and the release of the gas-powered Ford Model T in 1908 caused a dramatic dropoff in the number of EVs on American roads by 1915 (see timeline).

Automakers didn’t seriously invest in EV technology again until the 1990s, with Toyota releasing the first hybrid Prius in 1997. Tesla’s release of a fully electric sports car in 2008 brought the industry back full circle a century after it started.

How it works

Nonelectric vehicles use an internal combustion engine that works by igniting an air and fuel mixture in the engine’s pistons, which turns the wheels. Much of the energy generated is lost to heat, with only 16%-25% actually moving the wheels. A typical gas-run engine has roughly 2,000 moving parts.

Battery-powered EVs use induction motors, which use a stator to conduct electricity to create a rotating magnetic field that powers the rotor, turning the wheels. Two-thirds of the energy produced goes directly into moving the wheels. There are only roughly 20 moving parts under the hood of an electric vehicle (see both engines in motion). 

EVs store electricity in a lithium-ion battery block under the vehicle weighing an average of 900 pounds. The batteries contain many minerals, including lithium, nickel, cobalt, magnesium, and aluminum. Most of these minerals are mined and processed outside the US, with China controlling almost 80% of the minerals. 

Concerns have been raised globally about the impact mining has on workers, local communities, and the environment. Starting in 2025, EVs that contain any minerals sourced or processed in China will not be eligible for the full $7,500 tax credit.

Future

In 2022, California passed the Advanced Clean Cars II Act, which requires all new passenger cars, trucks, and SUVs sold in California to have zero emissions by 2035. Eight states followed suit, joining all 27 countries in the EU and multiple countries in Asia (see map). 

Most major automakers have made a commitment to greatly reduce or do away with gas-powered vehicles in the next 20 years.

Video Gallery

A collection of videos about Electric Vehicles

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Relevant articles, podcasts, videos, and more from around the internet — curated and summarized by our team

Open link on wired.com

Thomas Edison and Henry Ford had a close friendship, even owning homes next to each other. In 1914 rumors began swirling that Ford was investing in an electric version of his famous Model T. He invested $1.5M, including the purchase of 100,000 batteries from Edison. Read how the project fell apart, setting America on the path of gas-powered vehicles for the next 100 years (may need subscription).

Open link on youtube.com

In 1899 people not only owned cars, but they had three different options to choose from: steam-powered, gasoline-powered, and, one of the most popular, electric-powered. This short animated video goes through the early challenges of powering vehicles, the rise of a gasoline-dominated market, and how 100 years later the electric vehicle is making a comeback.

Land of the Giants

The history of Tesla

Open link on podcasts.apple.com

Now credited with bringing electric vehicles back into the mainstream, Tesla was founded in 2003 by engineers Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, with Elon Musk becoming an early investor and eventual CEO. After years of hard work and coming close to collapse at least once, millions of Teslas are on the road. This podcast series takes a deep look into the intricate history of the popular carmaker.

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Just like your cell phone or computer battery, every electric vehicle battery will one day reach its end of life. But with nearly all of the battery minerals found outside the US, the solution isn’t as easy as just making a new one. CNBC looks at the emerging battery recycling industry and how it could provide a way to source battery minerals stateside in the future.

Open link on caranddriver.com

You’ve seen the charging stations everywhere, but how long does it actually take to charge an electric vehicle? Just like cars can differ in how long it takes to fill with gas, electric vehicle charge times can also vary. This article walks through the variables including different types of chargers, the battery size, and even the temperature outside.

Open link on youtube.com

The average annual premium for auto insurance coverage in the US rose 26% in 2024, and rates are only expected to increase. The rate hikes aren’t simply a result of more people getting into crashes. This video explores how a lack of trained auto mechanics, a tighter supply of used vehicles, record healthcare bills, and litigation are contributing to higher monthly insurance bills.

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