Electric vehicles will have batteries

10 facts about electric cars

Instead of a petrol or diesel-powered engine, there is an electric motor under the hood: Electric cars are currently on everyone's lips, especially when you look at the public discussion about mitigating the effects of climate change. We have the 10 most exciting facts and a glossary with the key terms relating to the electric car for you.

Exhibited e-car from Ford at E-Cologne 2019

Photo: Sarah Janczura



1. What types of e-cars are there?

Electric cars are differentiated in terms of their drive systems.

Pure electric vehicles, so-called Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV), theoretically have an electric motor that takes over the entire drive. According to the current state of the art, these vehicles still need some support for longer journeys. This is why some models have built in a so-called range extender. This means an additional combustion engine that supplies the battery with energy and is therefore only indirectly involved in the drive.

Full hybrid on the other hand, they have an internal combustion engine and an electric motor, both of which are used for propulsion. If the battery used can be charged using a power connection, it is referred to as a socket or plug-in hybrid.

Furthermore there is Micro hybrid vehiclesthat do not have an electric motor at all, but use the electrical braking energy to e.g. B. to supply the vehicle electrics. And there are Mild hybrid vehicleswhich, in addition to an internal combustion engine, also have an electric motor that is fed by braking energy (recuperation) and, above all, provides support when starting off.

Strictly speaking, according to the Electromobility Act of 2015, purely battery-powered vehicles are considered to be electric vehicles, but also fuel cell vehicles and plug-in hybrids. For the latter there is still the restriction that they have a CO2-Emission of 50 grams per kilometer driven must not exceed or must have a minimum range of 30 kilometers using only the electric drive. From 2018 this minimum range will be increased to 40 kilometers.

2. How is the energy stored?

Lithium-ion traction batteries are installed in the vast majority of today's electric cars. These have a very high power and energy density, but also have disadvantages. It takes a long time until they are fully charged again. In addition, they discharge themselves when they are left idle for a long time. The production of the batteries is still very expensive and their service life is relatively short.

Researchers are therefore working on alternatives such as batteries stacked on top of one another that are supposed to bring a range of 1,000 kilometers more, highly efficient batteries with glass, such as those developed by the co-inventor of lithium-ion batteries, silicon-air batteries, which would be unrivaled in terms of price, or environmentally friendly redox flow batteries, such as those installed by the Liechtenstein company NanoFlowCell in its electric cars.

Tesla recently published test results with its research partner, in which a new million-mile battery was presented. This super battery is said to have a lifespan of 1.6 million kilometers.

3. How far do you get?

The range that can be achieved with one battery charge depends on the storage capacity of the installed battery. Theoretically, considerable ranges that correspond to those of a car with a combustion engine are conceivable. However, the still very high manufacturing costs for the batteries stand in the way.

The traction batteries currently installed by car manufacturers offer an average range of around 100 to 600 kilometers per charge. The cars with the longest range include two newcomers: the Model E from Tesla, which is due to hit the market at the end of 2017, and the Ampera-E from Opel. The Jaguar I-Pace S covers 420 kilometers.

4. How long does the battery last?

The service life of the batteries installed in electric cars is limited. Experts assume that lithium-ion batteries have to be replaced after around 1,000 charging processes. If you calculate with a range of 100 kilometers per charge, a battery will last around 100,000 km. Depending on the intensity of use of the vehicle, this means a shelf life of approx. 5 to 10 years.

The batteries mentioned above must first come out of the test phase in order to be able to make a reliable statement about their service life.

5. How many electric cars are there in Germany?

On January 1, 2019, around 83.200 Electric vehicles on German roads. In January 2017 there were just under 55,000 electric cars. By the way, most of the electric vehicles were in the south and west of the republic and in the cities.

But Germany still has some plans: by 2020, politicians want manufacturers to put a million electric vehicles on the road in Germany, especially plug-in hybrids and vehicles with range extenders.

6. Which countries are pioneers in electromobility?

In Europe, the absolute pioneers are the Netherlands, Norway and France. Norway has now outgrown most of the European countries. The Norwegian state exempts e-car buyers from VAT and pays import duties. Drivers can also look forward to a reduced vehicle tax.

Seen worldwide, China remains the measure of all things when it comes to electromobility in absolute terms. In the Middle Kingdom, over 142,000 e-cars were sold in the first quarter of 2018.

7. What does an electric car cost?

Electric cars are still significantly more expensive to buy than cars with a purely internal combustion engine. Depending on the manufacturer and vehicle type, you have to accept prices that are up to twice as high. And according to an ADAC study, these only pay off in exceptional cases. Because even if fewer wearing parts need to be replaced in electric cars due to the lack of a clutch or exhaust system, which results in lower workshop costs, the high purchase price means that the vehicles usually cannot keep up with petrol or diesel-powered cars in terms of profitability, i.e. costs per kilometer.

But in Germany there is the environmental bonus, a purchase bonus for electric vehicles that can be applied for. There is a € 4,000 premium for pure electric vehicles and € 3,000 for plug-in hybrids. The Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (Bafa) has a document available that lists all eligible models.

8. Do you have special rights with an electric car?

Yes. In the Electric Mobility Act (EmoG), which came into force in June 2015, electric cars are granted special rights. These include reduced parking fees, preferential treatment in the event of access restrictions, such as those that have been set up to protect against noise and exhaust fumes, and dedicated parking spaces with charging options in public spaces.

9. Where can the vehicle be charged?

According to the Federal Ministry of Transport, 300,000 charging points should be available in Germany by 2030, the majority of which are fast charging stations. Electric car drivers can currently refuel their vehicles with electricity at 20,650 publicly accessible charging stations. According to the German Association of Energy and Water Management (BDEW), they are mainly to be found in metropolitan areas and public parking garages. Around 12% of the charging stations are fast charging stations.

The Federal Network Agency publishes an interactive map of where there are charging stations in Germany. But not all available stations are listed there either.

10. How environmentally friendly are electric cars?

The manufacture of the batteries installed in electric cars is associated with an enormous amount of energy, which initially has a negative effect on the overall energy balance of the electric vehicle. In addition, the cars are only as clean as the electricity they use. As long as this is largely obtained from coal-fired power plants instead of renewable sources, this has a negative effect on the environmental balance of electric cars.

However, if you look at the entire service life of the electric car, it does significantly better than vehicles with a combustion engine in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption. Electric motors do not emit any pollutants and make them independent of fossil energy sources in the long term. Ultimately, however, consumption is also important: the less electricity it needs per kilometer, the more it protects the environment.

Glossary for e-car drivers

Alternating Current (AC)

Alternating Current (AC) is the English term for alternating current. E-cars only store direct current in their batteries. However, the electricity for charging that comes from the wall socket and many charging stations is alternating current.

battery pack

The battery is the most expensive component in an electric car. As a rule, lithium-ion batteries are installed, which consumers are also familiar with from smartphones and notebooks. The vehicle needs the accumulator for the drive.

Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV)

Battery Electric Vehicle, BEV for short, is the English name for the electric car. The term BEV is used as an expression when a pure electric car is to be distinguished from a hybrid vehicle. A hybrid car has both an internal combustion engine and an electric motor.

Fuel cell

The fuel cell is the alternative technology to the battery electric car. The fuel cell uses hydrogen that is stored in a tank. In combination with oxygen, electrical energy is generated in the cell.

Combined Charging System (CCS)

The European fast charging system CCS stands for Combined Charging System. There is a CCS plug for the system, which can be used to charge direct and alternating current. Most electric cars in Germany have CCS.

Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL)

CATL is the best-known Chinese battery manufacturer. In Erfurt, the manufacturer is building a new battery factory for 1.8 billion euros. One of the largest CATL customers is BMW.


When driving a car with a petrol or diesel engine, more CO2 is produced than is good for our earth's atmosphere. CO2, i.e. carbon dioxide, is a colorless gas and an important component of our air. The increase in CO2 emissions intensifies the greenhouse effect and thus global warming. E-cars do not emit any CO2 directly on the car, which is an argument in favor of driving with e-cars. Critical voices criticize the CO2 emissions in the production of batteries.


The start-up e-.Go is based in Aachen and manufactures the German electric car “Ego Life”. Series production started in 2019. ingenieur.de reported here. The e.Go is available from 16,000 euros.


The high efficiency is one of the advantages of the battery electric car. An e-car needs only half as much energy to travel one distance as a hydrogen car and only a sixth of what a combustion engine uses.

Solid battery

The solid-state battery is a development stage of the accumulator. The electrolyte is solid, not liquid. A solid-state battery achieves three times the energy density in the laboratory and can thus offer more range.


Molecular hydrogen H2 is used in hydrogen cars. These are also electric cars because they are powered by electricity. However, the electricity is not stored in a battery, but rather generated by the fuel cell in the car.

Hybrid car

The hybrid car has two drive concepts, a combustion engine and an electric motor with a battery. A hybrid car has various degrees of electrification and can range from mild to full to plug-in.


Volkswagen started a revolution with the introduction of the ID.3. At the IAA 2019, the car company's electric car was an eye-catcher. VW has launched the e-car in 3 versions. In the interior, the ID.3 resembles a Tesla.

Induction / inductive charging

Induction means charging without cables. The energy transfer works via two metal coils and a magnetic field. The electric car charges via a charging pad, for example on a column in a parking lot. The second coil is located in the car itself. If drivers park their car in a parking lot and charge the vehicle there, this is an induction.

Kilowatt hour

The kilowatt hour, or kWh for short, is the unit of measurement for energy. It indicates the power consumption. For batteries in electric cars, the value is between 20 and 70 KWh. The power consumption of an electric car is around 15 kWh per 100 kilometers.

Charging stations

The expansion of public charging stations for e-cars is progressing steadily. There are currently 16,000 locations where drivers can charge their electric cars. Some owners are going over to charging the electric car privately, but there is often no legal framework for this.

Light Electric Vehicles (LEV)

Light Electric Vehicles are electric vehicles with two or four wheels that weigh less than 100 kilograms. These include e-bikes and e-scooters.

Lithium Ion Battery

A lithium-ion battery is standard in electric vehicles. The energy density and longevity are particularly high here. However, a lithium-ion battery is expensive, so that e-cars are often more expensive than a vehicle with a combustion engine.


The electric car's engine runs on electricity. Compared to a combustion engine, the engine is a simple machine that generates changing magnetic fields. Due to attraction and repulsion, the moving part of the motor rotates around an immovable area called the stator.

Zero emissions car

A zero-emissions car is a vehicle that does not emit any harmful emissions when in use. The electric vehicle falls under this and is also referred to as “zero emissions”.

0.5% rule

Those who use e-cars and plug-in hybrids as company cars enjoy tax advantages. The 0.5% rule has been in effect since January 2019. Instead of one percent of the gross list price, employees only have to claim 0.5% for tax purposes. We have listed the tax advantages for engineers here.

Green electricity

Green electricity comes from renewable sources, i.e. wind energy or solar power. The ecological balance is far more positive here than with electricity from fossil sources such as coal. If the electricity for the construction of electric cars comes from fossil fuels, this is heavily criticized.

Plug-in hybrid

Two different drive motors are installed in the plug-in hybrid. Usually it is an internal combustion engine and an electric motor. Then what is the difference to a hybrid car? In this variant, the electric motor is charged via a charging cable.


Range is a crucial factor in the production and sale of e-cars. The range depends on the battery and consumption. A normal Tesla Model 2 usually covers 632 kilometers. Driving fast and using air conditioning reduces the range.

Smart grid

The smart grid is an intelligent power grid. The batteries in e-cars are able to temporarily store excess electricity from solar systems and wind turbines. When the weather is flat, the excess electricity can be fed back into the grid. The cars and charging stations must be designed for this principle for bidirectional charging.


The US company is considered a pioneer in electromobility. The first electric car from Tesla was built from 2008 to 2012 and was christened the Roadster. Tesla currently has 3 models on offer: Model S, Model X and Model 3. Tesla is owned by Elon Musk and already has half a million electric cars on the market.

Environmental bonus (in Germany)

Electromobility is subsidized in Germany: The federal government gives 4000 euros for purely battery-powered cars and 3000 euros for hybrid cars. The bonus can be applied for on the website of the Federal Office of Economics and Export Control. This applies to e-cars, plug-in hybrids, fuel cell cars, zero-emissions vehicles and cars that emit less than 50 grams of CO2 per kilometer.

Attention: On July 1, 2019, a new guideline to promote the sale of electrically powered vehicles came into force. An acoustic warning system can now be funded with a flat rate of 100 euros.

In order to stimulate further demand for e-cars, the federal government is extending the premium up to End of 2020.


Electric vehicles need to be charged. The wallbox is a charging station in the wall - usually for private households. The charging power is higher than that of the classic household socket.

Hydrogen car

A fuel cell car is also called a hydrogen car. Electricity is generated by a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen within the fuel cell.


WLTP stands for the term “Worldwide Harmonized Light-Duty Vehicles Test Procedure”. The legislator prescribes standardized test procedures to measure the fuel consumption of a car and whether it complies with the emission limits. The new WLTP test procedure has been in effect throughout the EU for type approval of new cars since September 1, 2017. The current procedure for consumption and emissions tests is closer to real driving and provides more accurate test results than the previous NEDC (New European Driving Cycle).

The USA introduced a new test procedure back in 2008 that provides more precise information about the expected consumption on the road. The US cycle is called the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA for short.

Cycle stability

This means the service life of the battery. The cycle stability is the number of charging and discharging processes before the capacity of the battery falls below a minimum performance. The battery of an electric car should last an average of 10 years.

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A contribution from:

  • Lisa Diez-Holz

    The author was content manager for the TechnikKarriere-News-Portal of the VDI Verlag from 2017 to the end of 2019.Before that, she wrote for VDI nachrichten as an editor.

  • Nadine Kleber

  • Sarah Janczura

    Sarah Janczura is content manager and responsible editor for ingenieur.de. After an internship with a focus on social media, she worked as an online editor in a digital agency. She writes about technology, research and career topics.