March 28, 2023

How does an electric car motor work and what are the benefits?

The number of customers using electric cars is growing (67,542 were registered in Italy in 2021, an increase of 538.6% compared with 2019) and more people are expressing an interest in this modern vehicle technology. It is very different from fossil fuel-powered cars, however, as there are significant differences between battery-powered motors and combustion engines. These are worth understanding more clearly in order to discover the benefits and the potential of electric vehicles. Here is some useful information about how electric motors work and the benefits they offer.

What does an electric motor consist of?

Good news: you won’t need a degree in engineering in order to understand how an electric motor works. Its composition is, in actual fact, very simple. The electric motor is basically composed of:

  • A fixed component, the stator, which is a ferromagnetic element wrapped in a copper conductor;
  • A mobile conductor, the rotor, which is the part that rotates;
  • The outer casing.


The movement of the rotor determines the two main types of electric motor:

  • The synchronous motor is more common. Here the speed of the rotation of the axle is linked to the frequency of the current powering it;
  • The asynchronous motor. Here the speed of the rotation of the axle is (slightly) less than that of the rotating field. This in turn is linked to the frequency of the current powering it.


Following this general overview of the electric motor, let’s see how it works.


How an electric motor works?

Having seen the different component parts of an electric motor, now we should clarify how the electric car motor works: this is basically how the electric car itself works. The powertrain of a BEV transforms the energy contained in the batteries into mechanical force. The stator, or the fixed element of the electric motor, generates a rotating magnetic field, the movement of which is followed by the rotor. This moving component, by making use of gearboxes, differentials and half-shafts, creates mechanical energy to be transferred to the wheels.


This does not, however, explain every aspect of an electric car motor because the vehicle is also capable of charging by doing the opposite. In other words, when the accelerator is not being applied, the kinetic energy lost while decelerating can be harnessed to move the rotor and generate electric current. In this way, the battery can be partly recharged while moving, thereby increasing the vehicle’s range.


What are the benefits of an electric motor?

People thinking about buying a battery-powered car are probably attracted by the benefits of an electric motor. We are mainly to its efficiency, which is 80%, if not 90% – i.e., more than twice as efficient as a combustion engine. In short, this means that the dispersion of energy compared with a fossil fuel-powered car is markedly lower, all to the benefit of efficiency. Only a part of the fuel burnt in a combustion engine is transformed into kinetic energy, while most of it is converted into heat.


When it comes to performance, electric motors have all of the torque available almost instantaneously. That is why, taking into account power levels and vehicle segment, and in spite of the heavier weight as a result of the batteries, electric cars have a snappier performance. It is no coincidence that some well-known models of electric family cars can compete, in performance terms, with fossil fuel-powered supercars.


If we are talking about electric cars and their benefits, we certainly cannot ignore the greater reliability of electric motors. Faults are much less common compared with combustion engines. After all, the powertrain has a simpler structure, its components are not subject to wear and tear and it is not necessary to replace filters and liquids, and that is why maintenance costs are significantly lower.

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