An electric vehicle is a vehicle that is propelled by electric motors. This is the case for metros and usually trams, and often for trains (i.e. often for locomotives and multiple units), and for electric trolleybuses.

The term is used in particular for electric automobiles. The rest of the article will pertain to those.

The energy used to power the motors can be obtained from a variety of sources including fuel cells and batteries.

There are a variety of battery electric vehicles that have been produced ranging from SUVs to sports cars. The chief problem with battery electric vehicles is their limited range in comparison with gasoline powered vehicles. This problem is being addressed through the use of gas-electric hybrid vehicles which use an electric engine for acceleration and may then be switched to gasoline power for cruising and in the near future may also be addressed through the use of batteries with higher energy densities and longer life. In addition, auto manufacturers have active programs looking at fuel cells which power electric cars, but electric vehicles have an advantage over fuel cells because fuel cell cars require as much as three times more energy than an electric car per mile when hydrogen production energy is included(assuming both vehicles use the same electric motors, the same tires, the same rim size, have the same weight, and share aerodynamic characteristics). Battery electric vehicles also have an advantage over fuel cell electric vehicles because they do not need expensive membranes made of platinum and other rare metals in which to store their energy, although batteries are also expensive and have environmental disposal issues.

Electric vehicles have been noted for being more environmentally friendly than conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) automobiles. Although the power for the car still has to be generated from a source, centralizing power production in large electric plants rather than in small gasoline engines is shown to reduce air pollution and increase fuel efficiency. The fumes can also be dispersed from a tall stack or chimney rather than released near pedestrians. As an added bonus, this energy might be generated from more environmentally benign sources such as tidal, solar, wind, and hydroelectric power technology. In addition, electric engines are several times more efficient than an ICE because they only have one moving part and often do not require a transmission and can also reclaim kinetic energy when braking through a regenerative process, although transmission losses from electricity distribution must be considered.

Critics of electric vehicles point out that in addition to the contrast in range, the large batteries needed to store energy in the vehicles are a serious environmental hazard. These claims are often refuted by environmentalists because the batteries can be recycled with minimal environmental impact and more advanced batteries such as lithium ion and nickel metal hydride batteries might give the cars the range of conventional gas cars. Due to lack of production volume, these batteries are currently 3-4 times more expensive than conventional Lead Acid or Nickel Cadmium batteries.

Critics also note that years of research have so far failed to yield economical or long-lasting batteries. In addition, battery recharge times are longer than practical in many situations The fastest recharge times being when quick charge technology is utilized, allowing charging times of under 30 minutes but not practical for gas stations.

In the United States, electric vehicles have been promoted through the use of tax credits. In California, the California Air Resources Board attempted to set a quota for the use of electric cars, but this was withdrawn after complaints by auto manufacturers that the quotas were economically unfeasible due to a lack of consumer demand. However, many believe this complaint to be unwarranted due to the claim that there were thousands waiting to purchase or lease electric cars from companies such as General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler in which these companies refused to meet that demand despite their production capability. Others note that the original electric car leases were at reduced cost and the program could not be expected to draw the high volumes required without selling or renting the cars at a financial loss. The electric car requirement in California was replaced by a combination requirement of a small number of zero-emissions vehicles and a larger number of partial zero-emissions vehicles (PZEV).

In London, electrically powered vehicles are one of the categories of vehicle exempted from the Congestion Charge.

Electric vehicles have a history that is highly unknown to the common person. Electric vehicles existed before internal combustion engine vehicles and held many vehicle land speed and distance records in the early 1900s. They were produced by Anthony Electric, Baker Electric, Ford Motor Company, and others and at one point in history out-sold gasoline-powered vehicles. Internal combustion engines replaced electric drive with the inventions of the electric ignition by Cadillac and the radiator. For more information on this subject, see history of the electric vehicle.

Recent or current production electric vehicles sold or leased to fleets include:

Recent prototype EVs include:

  • Ford E-Ka
  • Lexus EV (Featured in the film Minority Report)
  • Pinanfarina Ethos II
  • Renault EV Racer
  • Solectria Sunrise
  • Subaru Zero EV
  • Suzuki EV Sport

Aside from production electric cars, often hobbyists build their own EVs by converting existing production cars to run on electricity. Universities such as the University of California, Irvine even go so far as to build their own custom electric or hybrid-electric cars from scratch.

Electric vehicles are also highly popular in racing. The National Electric Drag Racing Association regularly holds electric car races and often competes them against exotics such as the Dodge Viper.

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