How Does an Electric Motor Work?


The onslaught of electric vehicles is coming. Some such as the Tesla Model 3 and Chevrolet Bolt are already here, but they remain a bit of a mystery to much of the general public. Whereas we’ve had more than  100 years to rectify our knowledge about the internal combustion engine, what do you actually know about an electric car and how its motors operate?

Luckily for you, DriversNg electrified editors have done the homework, read the research, and pulled apart a Porsche for good measure—just kidding, Porsche wouldn’t loan us one, no clue why. To properly wrap your head around how an electric motor works, follow along and dig in.

How Does an Electric Motor Work?

There are two types of electric motors, ones that use alternating current and others that uses direct current. Magic, however, is not involved. Here’s how they differ.

  • Direct Current Motor (DC)

A DC motor converts direct energy into torque through a simple process. A static magnet, or stator, uses its magnetic field to rotate an inner coil carrying the electric current supplied by the battery. The rotational force generates torque and powers the driven wheels of an electric car.

  • Alternating Current Motor (AC)

An AC motor converts an alternating current into torque through a simple process. The AC motor’s static electromagnet forms a ring around an internal conductive metal axle similar to that of a hamster wheel. Unlike a DC motor where energy is sent to the inner coil, an AC motor’s energy is sent to the static electromagnet, which then rotates the inner axle and produces torque.

How Does an Electric Car Battery Work?

Pretty much like any ordinary rechargeable battery, to be frank. Energy goes in, the battery temporarily stores that energy, the energy is sent to the electric motor or motors, and the motors use that energy to power the wheels. You can learn more about how electric car batteries work in Car Bibles’ How Do Electric Car Batteries Work.

A VW electric drivetrain on a white background.

Volkswagen will soon offer

What Can You Do To Increase Your Battery Life?

A lot! One of the key things to do is to ensure you maintain your vehicle according to its scheduled maintenance. Make sure you’re hitting every milestone and your car will keep going and going and going. Get it? Like the Energizer bunny!

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You can also head on over to Car Bibles’ article on How to Get the Best Tesla Battery Life which talks about this very topic!

What Affects Electric Vehicle Charging Speed?

Need to know exactly what affects your EV’s charging speeds? Great! Car Bibles already did an exhaustive look at that very topic in our guide, How Long Does It Take to Charge a Tesla?

Car Bible’s Glossary for EVs

Welcome to Bible school!

  • Hybrid

Simply stated, a hybrid car is one that uses both gasoline and electrical energy to operate. This is accomplished through the use of a gasoline engine/range-extending power generator, and/or a battery pack.

  • EV

An EV, or electric vehicle, is one that runs on electric battery power alone. It does not derive any power directly from the burning of fossil fuels.

  • MPGe

MPGe stands for “mile per gallon-equivalent” and refers to a hybrid or fully electric vehicle’s energy efficiency over an average distance in the same way an MPG refers to a gasoline engine’s efficiency over an average distance.

  • kWh

kWH stands for kilo-watt per hour and refers to the max output of an electric vehicle’s battery. In some parts of the world, it can also refer to the power output of a motor, including those powered by gasoline or diesel.

  • Volt

Named after Italian physicist Alessandro Volta—not the righteous band The Mars Volta—a volt is a unit of electromotive force.

Your Questions, Our Answers on Electric Motors

Your burning questions answered.

Q: How are Electric Motors Made?

A: When a mommy electric motor loves a daddy electric motor…

Just kidding. Electric motors are built like just about every other type of motor, by manufacturers and third-party suppliers. Most EVs get their motors from their parent company. Others like Sony’s Vision S Concept, however, are meant for other manufacturers to slap their badges across, similar to how some companies use Chevrolet’s LT and LS motors for bespoke cars.

Q: How Do You Make an Electric Motor More Powerful?

A: I see you’re interested in hot-rodding your EV. Welcome to the 2020 scene! There are a few ways to make your motor more powerful, such as: using a stronger magnet inside the motor, increasing the loops of the rotating coil, and adding more coils. You can also just send a bunch more power through the motor, but you may end up needing a new one once you’re done overclocking it. Or, you know, just buy a more powerful motor.

Q: What Is the Difference Between An Electric Generator And An Electric Motor?

A: An electric generator is essentially a gasoline-powered range extender that doesn’t supply power to the wheels, but instead charges the car’s battery. BMW’s i3 is one example of a hybrid that uses a range extender.

Q: Should I Charge My Electric Car Every Night?

A: Yes, but make sure you set the max charge to only 90-percent as that will reduce the thermal load and protect the battery pack’s longevity.

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About Researcher
Audu Ezekiel is fueled by his passion for understanding the nuances of cross-cultural advertising. He considers himself a ‘forever student,’ eager to both build on his academic foundations in content writing and stay in tune with the latest digital marketing strategies through continued coursework and professional development.
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