Many devotees of electric cars find that converting an old internal combustion vehicle into an electric vehicle is a lot more affordable. It’s also a lot more fun. However, before performing a conversion on your donor car, make sure you know which electric vehicle motor types are available. In this way, you’ll know which is the best for your application and what to expect.
Electric Vehicle Components: An Overview
Electric car motor design is somewhat simpler than that of an internal combustion engine vehicle. The basic components that make an electric car different from a gas or diesel car are the:
The car battery is the most important element. Often, it’s also the most expensive. It’s certainly the center of a lot of attention in the industry right now. One of the biggest obstacles to making electric vehicles both convenient and affordable in the U.S. is the range of the battery.
There are several types of electric car batteries on the market: Lithium-ion, solid state, aluminum ion, lithium sulfur, and metal-air. Lithium-ion are the most common, followed closely by the solid-state battery.
A controller is necessary for all-electric vehicle motor types. It’s the component that guides the entire operation of the vehicle, and it manages the distribution of power at all times. It’s basically the car’s electrical system computer, and manages the direction and amount of current to all parts of the vehicle.
Electric vehicle motor types can be AC or DC. AC motors are more common for a number of reasons. They tend to be less expensive and lighter. They’re also more efficient than DC engines.
Regenerative braking is a real breakthrough in electric car technology. It allows the car to extract energy from the braking system and reuse it. This is in contrast to a normal car breaking system where the inertia of a moving vehicle is wasted. The braking simply stops the wheels from moving, and the energy is wasted as heat through friction
Somewhat like a conventional transmission, the drive system of an electric vehicle provides the mechanical force to move the wheels. There are various designs and configurations based on the wide range of electric vehicle motor types used.
Electric Vehicles: Motor
Electric automakers use three different types of motors in an electric vehicle:
Brushed DC Motor
This is the simplest type of motor for an electric vehicle. Electrical current passes through arranged coils in a fixed magnetic field. This generates a magnetic filed that causes the coil assembly to rotate. Each coil moves toward its opposite pole in the fixed field. It’s necessary to constantly reverse the current to keep the motor rotating. Fixed conductive brushes conduct power to the coils, hence the name.
Some of the advantages of a Brushed DC motor is that it is less expensive to build. The controller is simpler and less expensive. It is Also often easier to rebuild.
Brushless DC Motor (BLDC)
On a brushless DC motor, the coil is a permanent magnet. The coils, fixed in place, don’t rotate. In a BLDC motor, the permanent magnet rotates, instead of the coils. Rotation is caused by changing the polarity of the stationary coils.
The advantages of a BLDC is that it has fewer moving parts. This means fewer parts to wear out and require replacement. BLDC motors are more efficient, smaller in size, and have a longer lifespan.
AC Induction Motor
Although not currently as popular as the DC motors, the AC induction motors seem to be the superior choice. In an AC induction motor, there’s no permanent magnet on the rotor. Current produces a rotating magnetic field, with the role of controller played by an inverter. This means increased efficiency. It also means greater torque and increased speeds.
Where to Find Motors for Electric Vehicles
If you’re looking to build your own electric car or convert an old gas car, there are a number of online retailers that sell a number of electric vehicle motor types.
Electric Car Parts Company
The Electric Car Parts Company site sells both AC motors and DC motors, as well as controllers and inverters for the complete electric car enthusiast.
EV West carries electric vehicle motors for a wide range of applications, including marine use. They even offer the Tesla Model S motor. Many of their electric motor packages include the necessary inverters, gear boxes, control units and other necessary parts.
High-Performance Electric Vehicle Systems
HPEVS offers electric vehicle motor types for a wide range of applications, form golf carts to electric cars to marine use to mining vehicles.
Thunderstruck Motors offers both AC and DC motors and motor conversion kits. They have a wide range of parts and accessories, as well, including conversion kits for sailboats and bicycles.
Electric Motorsport offers DC, BLDC and AC Induction motors and motor kits for marine use, karting, and biking.
D&D Motor Systems
D&D Motor Systems manufacturers several electric vehicle motor types and controllers. They provide custom motor and controller packages based on the vehicle for conversion.
Netgain distributes several well-regarded electric vehicle motor types that can be used in conversion. The company states that hobbyists can also use them to build a gas/electric hybrid. They deal with both stock and custom electric motors.
Now that you know a little bit more about the electric vehicle motor types available when building or converting a car, you have a better idea which one to choose for your project. Cost, reliability, and mechanical skill all play a part in the decision. Shop around at some of the sites provided to see prices and parts included. A conversion kit may be the cheapest solution. Additionally, you may want to look for refurbished and used parts when budgeting your project.
Featured Image CC by 0, by Tinou Bao via Flickr