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Frequently Asked Questions:

Performance & Maintenance

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How fast can they go?

Top speed is determined by the amount of voltage applied to the motor, and the gearing of the transmission. Electric vehicles cover the full range of speed performance. There are neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs) that only get up to 25 mph. Most basic conversion will reach at least 55-65 mph. High performance street conversions may reach 85-90 mph, or even more.

How far can they go?

Range is determined by many things. Vehicle factors include curb weight (not gross vehicle weight), battery pack voltage, and battery type. In general, lighter cars and bigger battery packs get higher range. But of course, if the battery pack gets too big, the car gets heavier. Driving conditions include terrain and pavement, weather, traffic flow, and driving style.

Typically, a basic compact car conversion using at least 96V worth of 6V flooded lead acid batteries can get 60 - 80 miles range under good conditions. Cold weather can reduce range somewhat, but this is not a major factor if the car is driven daily. Hills, poor traction, stop-and-go traffic, and inefficient driving habits can reduce range by as much as half in severe situations.

Some high performing conversions, such as the Voltsporsche, or lightweight kit cars, can get 80 - 100 miles under good conditions. In range competitions, some of these cars have reached 120 miles or more. These are normal street cars without special competition setups, but they are driving under optimum conditions. Daily life is rarely optimum.

The best range, without resorting to super expensive exotic batteries, will be achieved in a light car with a combination of an AC drive system and flooded lead acid 8V golf cart batteries. This type of vehicle could get up to 150 miles, depending on driving conditions.

Daily range can be extended by opportunity charging. Some EV drivers plug in all day at work, which greatly extends their total available range for the day.

For more detailed information about range issues, see the Tech Papers Batteries Collection and Driving An EV.

What happens if I run out of electricity?

First of all, your EV should have some kind of state-of-charge gauge, like a gas gauge, so you always know how much energy you have left. Second, EVs tend to be used for the same routes day after day. If you are driving your regular route, and the car is in good condition, then you know you have enough energy to get home.

Finally, an EV doesn't run out of energy all at once, like a gas car does. Instead, as you reach the last portion of charge, you will begin to notice a slight sluggishness. This will be noticeable sooner on uphills, but not until later if your drive is flat. It will gradually increase over several miles.

If you reach the point where you need to pull over, you still are not "out of juice". If you park the car and let the batteries rest for 5 or 10 minutes, they will recover some of their charge. You can then drive for another mile or so. If necessary, you can repeat this several times in order to get home, although it is not a good idea to do it too often. Try that trick with a car that's out of gas!

Can EVs climb hills?

Electric motors have a lot of torque (power). They can climb hills, even steep ones. The trade-off is range. The more hills, or steeper hills, that you climb, the less range you will have before you need to recharge. Another issue is duration of climb. A long continuous climb puts a lot of stress on components, primarily the motor and speed controller. However, the same climb that would overheat the car if done as a continuous grade might be accomplished easily if done in stages. This might mean simply switching from a route straight up the hill to one that zigzags and had intermittent flattish portions.

What if I want to take a long trip?

At this time, EVs are not suited for long distance travel. Each kind of vehicle has its own niche. A minivan can't match a sports car for handling, but a sports car can't carry a whole family on a camping trip. An EV is perfect for the kind of local driving most people do most of the time. Most households also have more than one vehicle. Long trips are times to get out the other car. Even if you don't have a second car, renting one for the occasional trip can be more affordable than owning one.

What kind of maintenance does an EV need?

Very little. That's part of the beauty of it. Check the batteries once a month or so to be sure they don't need water, and the connections are clean and tight. Keep your tires properly inflated for good performance. Maintain the clutch, brakes, and suspension as you normally would. Change the brushes on the motor (a minor operation) at about 80,000 miles. That's it.

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