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Electric Car Parts: What’s the Difference?

Differences in electric car parts

Electric cars and conventional cars are similar in many ways. They both have suspension, steering, four wheels, four brakes, a radio, and more. However, because electric cars and gasoline or diesel cars are powered differently, it’s no surprise that some electric car parts are different from conventional car parts. Here are just a few differences and similarities between electric cars and conventional cars.

Electric Car Parts Differences

Of course, the one major difference between conventional cars and electric cars is the powertrain — hybrid cars have both electric and gas! Electric cars are driven by one or more electric motor-generator. Conventional cars use an internal combustion engine, with hundreds of moving parts, to the same effect. Slowing a conventional vehicle, though, is done mostly by the brake system.

The energy to power the electric motor-generators is stored in the battery pack, but not the typical 12V lead-acid battery we’re used to seeing in conventional cars. Electric car battery packs are usually of lithium-ion chemistry, which packs more energy into a smaller package. Instead of refueling an electric car, you recharge it. Where a conventional car has a gas tank and needs to visit the gas station for refueling, you can just plug your electric car into an electric car charger at your house.

Because there is no internal combustion engine generating what is essentially waste heat, electric cars use electric heaters. Electric cars with heated seats and steering wheel keep you comfortable more efficiently. Nissan Leaf uses an ingenious heat-pump solution, both for heating in cold weather and cooling in warm weather.

Electric Car Parts Similarities

On the other hand, electric cars are similar to conventional cars in many ways. Practically everything inside an electric car, such as the seats, audio-video system and air conditioning controls, are exactly the same as in conventional cars. Under the skin, too, there are many similar parts, including the electric power steering rack, though many conventional cars still use hydraulic power steering, and suspension components, such as the shocks, struts and anti-roll bars.Electric car or conventional car, same brake pads.

Electric cars and hybrid cars use the motor-generator to slow the vehicle, which is called “regenerative braking.” Energy generated during braking goes to recharge the battery, slowing the vehicle in the process. Then, the hydraulic brakes take over to stop the vehicle in the last couple seconds or so, depending on driver demand. The hydraulic brake system is the same as any conventional brake system with an electric brake booster. Even the brake pads might be the same. For example, certain premium brake pads fit both conventional cars and electric cars.

As you can see, there are a couple of big differences between electric cars and conventional cars, but there are also a great many similarities. Because of these differences, electric car maintenance is simpler in many ways. But because of the similarities, electric car maintenance is also familiar to most technicians and DIYers.

Check out all the electrical system products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on electric car parts, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Benjamin Jerew View All

Ben has been taking things apart since he was 5, and putting them back together again since he was 8. After dabbling in DIY repairs at home and on the farm, he found his calling in the CGCC Automobile Repair program. After he held his ASE CMAT for 10 years, Ben decided he needed a change. Now, he writes on automotive topics across the web and around the world, including new automotive technology, transportation legislation, emissions, fuel economy and auto repair.

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