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The Top 10 Questions About Electric Cars, Answered

How Do Electric Cars Work | Metromile

You’ve heard about electric cars, and now you’re thinking of buying one. The only problem might be that you have a few questions. 

While electric cars might be cool or more popular nowadays, there can still be some confusion. We’ve gone ahead and answered the top 10 most common questions about electric cars.

1. When was the first electric car made?

While you might think electric vehicles are a modern phenomenon, electric cars are older than you think. 

The first electric vehicle was created as early as 1828. It wasn’t until the 1870s that electric vehicles became smaller scale, more usable, and practical.

2. How do electric cars work?

Electric vehicles, sometimes called battery electric vehicles, “have an electric motor instead of an internal combustion engine,” according to the U.S. Department of Energy. “The vehicle uses a large traction battery pack to power the electric motor and must be plugged into a wall outlet or charging equipment, also called electric vehicle supply equipment.” 

Electric cars don’t use liquid fuel, so there aren’t any fuel pumps, fuel lines, or fuel tanks. Because they run on electricity, they also don’t emit any car exhaust from their tailpipes.

Source: U.S. Department of Energy

3. Do electric cars use oil?

Electric cars don’t use oil. Instead, electric vehicles use electricity stored in a battery to run an electric motor.

Because electric vehicles operate differently from traditional cars, this also means they don’t require oil changes as a part of your car maintenance checklist.

4. Do electric cars have transmissions?

One of the major differences between conventional cars and electric vehicles is the transmission. Electric cars don’t have different speed transmissions. Instead, electric cars have just one single-speed transmission, which is part of the electric motor that runs the car.

5. How long does it take to charge an electric car?

Charge times for electric cars can vary based on different factors, such as the battery size and charging capacity. Cold weather and other environmental factors can also impact charging speed.

According to Kelley Blue Book, which used data from car manufacturers’ websites, electric vehicles can take as few as four hours to as long as 12 hours to max out its charge.

Here’s how long it might take for some common electric vehicles to charge fully:

Charging time of major electrical car models

6. How much does it cost to charge an electric car?

The cost to charge an electric vehicle depends on local electricity costs and whether you have to pay to use a charger. In California, electric vehicles might cost about $7 or more to fully charge. 

According to FuelEconomy.gov, there are sometimes free public chargers available, while other chargers may have a flat fee, a monthly subscription, or a per-use cost by time. 

You can also consider purchasing an at-home charger for your vehicle, which could cost between $400 to $1,000. You should also budget for any installation or set-up costs, such as fees, permits, or long-term maintenance.

7. How do I charge an electric car?

There are three main ways to charge an electric vehicle: 

  1. Level 1 charger: This is a regular 120-volt outlet in your home and the slowest way to charge your car. Your car will likely come with a cord for you to use this type of charging at home. 
  2. Level 2 charger: If you’re looking to charge your electric car outside of the home, it’ll likely be a 240-volt or 208-volt charger. Level 2 chargers can charge your electric vehicle more quickly. You can also install a Level 2 charger at home. 
  3. Fast charger: Fast or rapid electric vehicle chargers, sometimes called DC fast charging or DC quick charging, is typically the fastest charge available. You could get up to 50 miles or more in range after about 20 minutes. Fast charging isn’t available for all electric cars, so be sure to check your car owner’s manual before you try to use a fast charger. 

You’ll want to check your owner’s manual to see which type of charger works with the make and model of your electric car.

8. How much are electric cars?

Electric vehicles vary in price by make, model, and year, with some costing as much as a traditional entry-level car.

Here are the typical starting costs of some common electric vehicles in the United States:

typical car cost for electrical models

9. Are electric cars better for the environment?

Electric vehicles can be better for the environment because they can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Because they don’t use fossil fuels or gas to run an engine or motor, electric vehicles don’t produce any tailpipe emissions.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “While charging the battery may increase pollution at the power plant, total emissions associated with driving electric vehicles are still typically less than those for gasoline cars—particularly if the electricity is generated from renewable energy sources like wind.”

10. Who makes electric car batteries?

As electric cars become more popular and commonplace, the need for electric car batteries has increased. There are now many electric car battery manufacturers. 

According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, many electric vehicle battery pack manufacturers are assembled in the United States. 

Some major electric car battery manufacturers include:

battery makes for electrical cars

The bottom line

Electric vehicles aren’t just a trendy fad but are here to stay. They can be a more environmentally friendly way to drive compared to traditional cars.

If you drive an electric car or are thinking about purchasing an electric vehicle, chances are you don’t drive much or are actively looking to drive less. Pay-per-mile auto insurance can be a good fit for you and help you lower car insurance costs.

You can see if pay-per-mile car insurance is right for you with Metromile. Download the Metromile app and take a Ride Along™ trial for free. For about two weeks, you’ll drive like you typically do (you should keep your existing insurance policy to keep covered during the trial). After, you’ll see how much you could save if you switched to a usage-based insurance policy.
Drivers can also save up to an extra 40% off their initial Metromile auto insurance quote if they show they’re a safe driver during their Ride Along™ in select states.


Melanie Lockert is a freelance writer, podcast host of the Mental Health and Wealth show, and author of Dear Debt. She’s a cat mom to two jazzy cats, Miles and Thelonious, an amateur boxer, music lover, and needs coffee to function.