10 facts about electric cars

Instead of an engine powered by gasoline or diesel, there’s an electric motor under the hood: electric cars are currently on everyone’s lips, especially considering the public debate on how to mitigate the effects of climate change. We have the 10 most exciting facts and a glossary of key terms related to the e-car for you.

Ford's e-mobile with RheinEnergie logo

Ford’s e-car on display at E-Cologne 2019

Photo: Sarah Janczura

1. What types of e-cars are there?

Electric cars are distinguished in terms of their drive systems.

Pure electric vehicles, Battery electric vehicles (BEVs), which theoretically have an electric motor that takes over the entire drive system. According to the current state of the art, however, these vehicles still need some assistance for longer distances. That’s why some models have a so-called range extender built in. This refers to an additional combustion engine that supplies the battery with energy and is thus only indirectly involved in the drive system.

Full hybrids on the other hand, have an internal combustion engine and an electric motor, both of which serve to drive the vehicle. If the battery used can be recharged via a power connection, this is referred to as a plug-in hybrid or plug-in hybrid.

Furthermore, there are Microhybrid vehicles, that do not have an electric motor at all, but use the electrical braking energy to z. B. to power the vehicle’s electrical system. And there are Mild hybrid vehicles, which, in addition to an internal combustion engine, also have an electric motor that is fed via braking energy (recuperation) and provides support above all when starting off.

Strictly speaking, according to According to the Electromobility Act of 2015, vehicles powered purely by batteries are classified as electric vehicles, but so are fuel cell vehicles and plug-in hybrids. For the latter, there is still the restriction that they have a CO2 emission of 50 grams per kilometer driven or must have a minimum range of 30 kilometers using only the electric drive. From 2018, this minimum range will be increased to 40 kilometers.

2. How the energy is stored?

The vast majority of today’s electric cars are equipped with lithium-ion traction batteries. These have a very high power and energy density, but also come with disadvantages. So it takes a very long time for them to be fully charged again. In addition, they are self-discharging during longer idle periods. The production of batteries is still very expensive today and their service life is relatively short.

Researchers are therefore working on alternatives such as stacked batteries that can 1.The most common battery types are the lithium-ion battery, which is designed to provide an additional range of 000 kilometers, highly efficient batteries with glass, such as those developed by the co-inventor of lithium-ion batteries, silicon air batteries, which would be unrivaled in terms of price, or environmentally friendly redox flow batteries, such as those used by the Liechtenstein-based company NanoFlowCell in its electric cars.

Job search for engineers

Tesla has just recently published test results with its research partner, where a new million-mile battery was presented. This super battery is said to have a service life of 1.6 million kilometers.

3. How far will it take?

The range to be achieved with one battery charge depends on the storage capacity of the installed battery. Theoretically, it would be possible to achieve a range equivalent to that of a car with an internal combustion engine. However, this is hampered by the still very high manufacturing costs for the batteries.

The traction batteries currently installed by car manufacturers offer an average range of approx. 100 to 600 kilometers per charge. The cars with the longest range include two newcomers: Tesla’s Model E, which is scheduled for market launch at the end of 2017, and Opel’s Ampera-E. The Jaguar I-Pace S can travel 420 kilometers.

4. How long does the battery last?

The service life of the batteries installed in electric cars is limited. Experts assume that lithium-ion batteries can be recharged after about 1.must be replaced at least every 000 charging operations. Assuming a range of 100 kilometers per charge, a rechargeable battery will last around 100 kilometers.000 km long. Depending on the intensity of use of the vehicle, this means a durability of approx. 5 to 10 years.

The above-mentioned batteries must first come out of the test phase before a reliable statement can be made about their service life.

5. How many electric cars drive in Germany?

On 1. January 2019, around 83.200 Electric vehicles on German roads. In January 2017, the figure was still just under 55.000 electric cars. Incidentally, most electric vehicles were found in the south and west of the country and in cities.

However, Germany still has some way to go: By 2020, politicians want manufacturers to put one million electric vehicles on the road in Germany, primarily plug-in hybrids and vehicles with range extenders.

6. Which countries are considered pioneers of electromobility??

In Europe, the absolute pioneers are the Netherlands, Norway and France. Norway has now overtaken most European countries. The Norwegian government waives VAT for e-car buyers and assumes import duties. Drivers can also look forward to reduced vehicle tax.

In absolute terms, China remains the world’s leading market for electric vehicles of all things in terms of electromobility. In the Middle Kingdom in the first quarter of 2018, over 142.000 e-cars sold.

7. What does an electric car cost??

Electric cars are still much more expensive to buy than cars with a purely internal combustion engine. Depending on the manufacturer and vehicle type, you have to accept prices that are up to twice as high. And according to a study by the German Automobile Association (ADAC), they only pay off in exceptional cases. Even though electric cars have fewer wearing parts to replace due to the lack of a clutch or exhaust system and therefore lower workshop costs, the high purchase price means that the vehicles cannot usually compete with petrol or diesel-powered cars in terms of profitability, i.e. costs per kilometer.

In Germany, however, there is an environmental bonus, a purchase premium for electric vehicles, which can be applied for. For pure E-vehicles there are 4.000 euros premium, for plug-in hybrids 3.000 euros. The German Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (Bafa) has a document available that lists all eligible models.

8. Do you have special rights with an electric car?

Yes. In the Electromobility Act (EmoG), which came into force in June 2015, electric cars are granted special rights. These include reduced parking fees, preferential treatment in access restrictions, such as those established to combat noise and exhaust fumes, and dedicated parking spaces with charging facilities in public areas.

9. Where to charge the vehicle?

According to the Federal Ministry of Transport, 300.000 charging points will be available in Germany, most of them fast-charging stations. Currently, electric car drivers can connect their vehicles to 20.650 publicly available charging stations for electric vehicles. They are mainly found in metropolitan areas and public parking garages, according to the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW). Around 12% of charging stations are fast charging stations.

An interactive map of where charging stations are located in Germany is published by the German Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur). But even there, not all available stations are listed.

10. How environmentally friendly are electric cars??

The production of the batteries installed in electric cars involves an enormous amount of energy, which initially has a negative impact on the overall energy balance of the electric vehicle. Moreover, cars are only as clean as the electricity they use. As long as a large proportion of this is obtained from coal-fired power plants instead of renewable sources, this will have a negative impact on the environmental balance of electric cars.

However, if you look at the entire life cycle of the electric car, it comes off worst in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption significantly better than vehicles with internal combustion engines. Electric motors emit no pollutants and make them independent of fossil energy sources in the long run. Ultimately, however, consumption is also important: The less electricity it needs per kilometer, the more it protects the environment.

Glossary for e-car drivers

Alternating Current (AC)

Alternating current (AC) is the English term for alternating current. E-cars only store direct current in their batteries. However, the electricity for charging that comes out of the socket and many charging stations is alternating current.

The battery is the most expensive component in an electric car. As a rule, lithium-ion batteries are installed, which consumers are also familiar with from smartphones and notebooks. The accumulator is needed by the vehicle for propulsion.

Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV)

Battery Electric Vehicle, or BEV for short, is the English name for the electric car. The expression BEV is used when a pure E-car is to be distinguished from a hybrid vehicle. A hybrid car has both an internal combustion engine and an electric motor.

Fuel cell

The fuel cell is the alternative technology to the battery electric car. The fuel cell uses hydrogen, which is stored in a tank. In combination with oxygen, electrical energy is produced in the cell.

Combined Charging System (CCS)

The European fast-charging system CCS stands for Combined Charging System. The system has a CCS plug that can be used to charge direct and alternating current. Most electric cars in Germany are equipped with CCS.

Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL)

CATL is the best-known Chinese battery manufacturer. In Erfurt, the manufacturer is building a new battery factory for 1.8 billion euros. One of CATL’s biggest customers is BMW.

Driving a gasoline or diesel car produces more CO2 than is good for the earth’s atmosphere. CO2, or carbon dioxide, is a colorless gas and an important component of our air. The rise in CO2 emissions increases the greenhouse effect and thus global warming. E-cars do not emit CO2 directly at the car, which is an argument for driving with e-cars. Critical voices criticize however the CO2 output in the production of rechargeable batteries.

The start-up e-.Go is based in Aachen and produces the German electric car “Ego Life” her. Series production will start in 2019. ENGINEER.de reported here. The e.Go is available from 16.000 euros.


The high efficiency is one of the advantages of the battery electric car. An electric car needs only half the energy of a hydrogen car to cover the same distance, and only one-sixth of what an internal combustion engine consumes.

Solid-state battery

The solid-state battery is a development stage of the rechargeable battery. The electrolyte is not liquid but solid. A solid-state battery achieves three times the energy density in the laboratory and can thus offer more range.

Molecular hydrogen H2 is used in hydrogen cars. These are also electric cars, as they are powered by electricity. The electricity is not stored in a battery, but is generated by the fuel cell in the car.

Hybrid car

The hybrid car has two drive concepts, a combustion engine and an electric motor with battery. A hybrid car has various degrees of electrification and can range from mild to full to plug-in.

With the introduction of the ID.3 a revolution started. At the IAA 2019, the electric car of the car company was the eye-catcher. VW has launched the e-car on the market in 3 versions. Inside the car, the ID.3 a Tesla.

Induction/inductive charging

Induction means charging without cables. The energy transfer works via two metal coils and a magnetic field. The electric car charges via a charging pad, for example at a pillar in a parking lot. The second coil is in the car itself. If drivers park their cars in a parking lot and charge the vehicle there, it is induction.


The kilowatt hour, or kWh for short, is the unit of measurement for energy. It indicates the power consumption. For batteries in electric cars, the value ranges from 20 to 70 KWh. The power consumption of an e-car is around 15 kWh per 100 kilometers.

Charging stations

The expansion of public charging stations for e-cars is progressing steadily. There are currently 16.000 locations where drivers can charge their e-car. Some owners are starting to charge the electric car privately, but there is often no legal framework for this.

Light Electric Vehicles (LEV)

Light Electric Vehicles are electric vehicles with two or four wheels that weigh less than 100 kilograms. This includes e-bikes and e-scooters.

Lithium-ion battery

A lithium-ion battery is standard in electric vehicles. The energy density and longevity are particularly high here. However, a lithium-ion battery is expensive, so e-cars are often more expensive than a vehicle with an internal combustion engine.


The motor of the e-car is powered by electricity. Compared to an internal combustion engine, the motor is a simple machine that generates alternating magnetic fields. Due to attraction and repulsion, the moving part of the motor rotates around an immobile area called the stator.

Zero emission car

A zero-emission car is a vehicle that emits no harmful emissions during operation. The electric vehicle falls under this and is also called “Zero Emissions” means.

0.5% rule

Those who use e-cars and plug-in hybrids as company cars enjoy tax benefits. Since January 2019, the 0.5% regulation applies. Instead of one percent of the gross list price, employees then only have to claim 0.5 percent for tax purposes. Which tax advantages still result for engineers, we have listed here.


ÖThe electricity comes from renewable sources, i.e. wind energy or solar power. The eco-balance is far more positive than with electricity from fossil fuels such as coal. If the electricity for building electric cars comes from fossil fuels, this is heavily criticized.

Plug-in hybrid

Plug-in hybrids are equipped with two different drive motors. As a rule, it involves an internal combustion engine and an electric motor. What is then the difference to a hybrid car? In this variant, the electric motor is charged via a charging cable.


The range is a decisive factor in the production and sale of e-cars. Depending on the battery and consumption, the range is composed. A normal Tesla Model 2 usually gets 632 kilometers. Driving fast and using air conditioning reduces the range.

Smart Grid

The smart grid is an intelligent electricity network. The batteries of e-cars are able to temporarily store excess electricity from solar plants and wind turbines. In the event of a weather lull, the excess electricity can be fed back into the grid. The cars and charging stations must be designed for this principle for bidirectional charging.


The US company is considered a pioneer of electric mobility. The first e-car from Tesla was built from 2008 to 2012 and was christened the Roadster. Tesla currently has 3 models on offer: Model S, Model X and Model 3. Tesla is owned by Elon Musk and already has half a million e-cars on the market.

Environmental bonus (in Germany)

Electromobility is subsidized in Germany: For pure battery cars the federal government gives 4000 Euro, for hybrid cars 3000 Euro subsidy. ÜThe bonus can be applied for via the website of the Federal Office of Economics and Export Control. This applies to e-cars, plug-in hybrids, fuel cell cars, zero-emission vehicles and cars that emit less than 50 grams of CO2 per kilometer.

Attention: On 1. July 2019, a new directive to promote the sale of electrically powered vehicles has come into force. An acoustic warning system can now be subsidized with a lump sum of 100 Euro.

To spur continued demand for e-cars, the federal government is extending the premium until End of 2020.


Electric vehicles must be charged. The wallbox is a charging station in the wall as a rule for private households. The charging power is higher than that of the classic household socket.

Hydrogen car

A fuel cell car is also called a hydrogen car. Electricity is generated by a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen inside the fuel cell.

WLTP stands for “Worldwide Harmonized Light-Duty Vehicles Test Procedure”. The legislator prescribes standardized test procedures to measure the fuel consumption of a car and whether it complies with the exhaust emission limits. For the type approval of new passenger cars, the EU-wide cycle has been in effect since 1 January 2009. September 2017 the new WLTP test procedure. The current method for fuel consumption and emissions tests is closer to real-world driving and provides more accurate test results than the previous NEDC (New European Driving Cycle).

The U.S. introduced a new test procedure back in 2008 that gives more accurate information about expected fuel consumption on the road. The US cycle is called the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA for short.

Cycle stability

This refers to the service life of the battery. Cycle stability is the number of times the battery can be charged and discharged before its capacity falls below a minimum rating. The battery in an e-car should last an average of 10 years.

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