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How Electric and Hybrid Electric Vehicles Work

Electric Drive

Electric vehicles operate on electric batteries, which last for a certain time and range and then are recharged or replaced.

Photo of Toyota Prius hybrid electric vehicleWhen an EV's ignition is turned on, the battery sends energy to the motor through a sophisticated motor control unit. Electric energy is converted into mechanical energy, and, through a mechanical drive system in the wheels, the motor propels the vehicle. An EV uses energy only while it is in motion. When the vehicle brakes, the mechanical energy is converted back into electric energy to charge the battery. With no spark plugs, oil or gas filters or mufflers, EVs require less maintenance than gasoline-powered vehicles.

Hybrid Electric

Hybrid-electric vehicles are drawing increased attention as the next step in of clean-energy transportation. A hybrid-electric vehicle is equipped with an auxiliary power unit that runs on a variety of fuels, including gasoline, diesel or natural gas. The auxiliary unit can recharge the vehicle’s battery or power its wheels. Hybrids have greater range than their all-electric counterparts and are more efficient and less polluting than standard vehicles.