Electric vehicles, or EVs, are more common than ever before. With more models expected to reach the market over the next few years, it’s becoming more feasible for companies to use these vehicles in their fleets. However, learning to drive an electric vehicle takes some time since they operate slightly differently than an internal combustion engine vehicle. As with any vehicle, drivers must practice safe driving habits when driving EVs.
Benefits of Electric Vehicles
Not all EVs are alike. There are three different types of electric vehicles available on the market:
Battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) are powered by electricity,
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) run on both electricity and gas, and
Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) rely primarily on gas to fuel the vehicle and have electric components such as regenerative braking.
Electric vehicles are extremely efficient since they often have enough range to satisfy the needs of a typical driving day for many days without fully recharging. For some drivers, this means daily energy usage can be replenished from a standard 120-volt outlet. However, installing a 240-volt charger provides more convenience and peace of mind for proper charging.
Plug-in hybrid vehicles have a larger battery, and a means to recharge the battery using an external power source. Typically, plug-in hybrid vehicles behave similarly to battery electric vehicles when the gasoline engine is inactive (when the vehicle’s battery is charged). The internal combustion engine powers the vehicle when the battery runs down. This function allows the vehicle to continue operating uninterrupted as a regular gasoline hybrid. The plug-in hybrid vehicle also uses regenerative braking, which helps to save fuel.
A vehicle is considered a hybrid vehicle if it’s 100% gasoline-fueled but does not entirely rely on an internal combustion engine for propulsion. Hybrid vehicles also have electric motors that power the vehicle to delay using the internal combustion engine and save fuel. There may be times where both systems work together for added power. Their electric motors operate as generators when the brake is depressed. The energy regenerated during the braking period is kept in a small battery that can be used immediately the next time the driver accelerates from rest.
Electric vehicles offer companies significantly reduced fuel costs compared with traditional gas-powered vehicles. A gallon of gasoline typically costs roughly twice as much compared to an electric vehicle. Most electric vehicles deliver instant power coming from a stop with smooth and quiet acceleration. The driving experience is quite different from a traditional gasoline-fueled vehicle. This is because EVs often feel like they glide with little effort.
Despite an electric vehicle’s heavy batteries, they typically handle well since the batteries are positioned low in the vehicle. And since the heavy internal combustion engine is missing, it adds to the mobility of the electric vehicle. This adds to the fact that electric vehicles are easy to drive. Since there are no gears to worry about, you simply press the start button, choose Drive on the gear selector, and off you go.
How Electric Vehicles Work
You may be asking, “Are electric cars safe?” The overwhelming answer is yes. To address electric vehicle safety questions, the manufacturers have significantly increased the range and reliability of electric vehicles over the past few years. But understanding how they work often reduces the fear and concerns many have with driving these types of vehicles.
Unlike a conventional automatic transmission vehicle where you put the car in drive and let the transmission smoothly move through each gear, there are no individual gears for the vehicle to select. This is because an electric motor doesn’t require similar gears to an internal combustion engine vehicle. The motor spins in one direction to go forward and in the other direction to go backward.
An electric motor’s torque is available instantly. With an internal combustion engine, the vehicle needs to be in a peak power band before all of the potential performance is available. With an EV, once you press the accelerator, the motor’s power is immediately there.
Due to their powerful motors, electric vehicles allow drivers to accelerate quickly. When already in motion, electric vehicles tend to have good acceleration during the in-gear acceleration phase. This makes driving an electric vehicle much more manageable than most internal combustion engine vehicles, particularly in high traffic areas.
It’s simple to speed up, but there’s also a unique design for slowing down. Each time you lift off the accelerator or push the brake pedal, the vehicle not only reduces speed; it also begins recharging the battery. Although there are conventional brakes for making a quick stop, some people find these brakes are only necessary when parking or braking in traffic. Taking your foot off the throttle will allow the vehicle’s energy recapture system to slow the vehicle down.
This regenerative braking is the electric vehicle’s most significant difference from an internal combustion engine vehicle. It is also one of the qualities that makes them so easy to drive. If you return to driving a vehicle with an internal combustion engine, braking can sometimes feel somewhat wasteful since you’re not capturing and reusing the energy.
You can still drive as you would in an internal combustion engine vehicle. Still, it’s better to use the brake energy recuperation technology to improve and add to the vehicle’s range, and it can help improve your driving at the same time. By looking well ahead and reading the road, drivers can better use this system, which offers several benefits. Not only will this improve the vehicle’s range by topping up the battery, but by lifting off the accelerator a little sooner, it takes less energy to begin accelerating again.
Using The Smith5Keys® for Safe Driving
Although many drivers may feel they fully understand the need for braking and do a fine job with it, that may not always be the case. There is much to learn to get the most out of braking while driving an electric vehicle. Driver safety skills are covered in detail with The Smith5Keys training, and drivers can easily apply this training when driving electric vehicles.
Looking ahead of their current position helps drivers reduce speed early. With Key 1. Aim High In Steering®, drivers are instructed to look ahead to where they feel they will be in 15 seconds. Looking this far ahead allows for advance warning that helps drivers make early decisions. This includes knowing when to slow or stop for more efficient and economical driving.
Keeping additional space between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you means more gentle braking if the lead vehicle begins to brake. With Key 2. Get The Big Picture® drivers learn how to establish the proper following distance to allow for safer stopping and improve the driver’s vision.
There may be times that switching lanes may be the best course of action to create more space around your vehicle. Key 4. Leave Yourself An Out® helps drivers decide which lane is best at certain times and how adjusting acceleration to keep a space cushion for safety and economical driving is achieved.
Electric vehicles are very quiet to operate, which can become dangerous for pedestrians. This is because electric vehicles run on silent electric motors, producing soft whirring and slight tire noise. (Although electric vehicles now require an audible sound to alert pedestrians each time the vehicle is traveling at 19 mph or less.) To alleviate this risk, Smith System addresses this issue in Key 5. Make Sure They See You® by training drivers to recognize the potential danger of operating a quiet vehicle by obtaining eye contact from the pedestrians and learning how to utilize the vehicle warning devices proactively.