Alternative energy vehicles like electric cars seem to be quite straightforward. But the innovative cars from Tesla Inc are not just a glorified golf buggy.
Although the principles remain the same, it is interesting to have a closer look at a Tesla electric car (or just Tesla) and how it works.
Unlike a hybrid that marries an internal combustion engine with an electric motor, the Tesla is a pure electric car.
A hybrid depends on its internal combustion engine to charge its battery pack and some even have regenerative braking to assist but the Tesla depends entirely on its electric motor for motive power.
Tesla uses an induction motor, invented by Nikola Tesla (whose name inspires the company), an inverter, transmission, differential, battery pack and regenerative braking system to complete the whole. The induction motor is lighter and smaller than a regular electric motor.
An induction motor also produces direct rotational motion and smooth uniform power and is imminently suitable for use in a vehicle.
The Tesla’s motor produces 270kW of power and weighs a scant 31.8kg. The unit spins to 18,000rpm and is extremely efficient from zero revs to that peak. But the weight saving is offset by the heavy battery pack.
The Tesla needs to charge its innovative battery pack, just like your laptop or mobile phone. Mounted low under the floor, the pack is extremely heavy (almost 450kg) but maintains a low centre of gravity for excellent handling characteristics. Each battery pack consists of 7,000 cylindrical Panasonic lithium-ion batteries.
The design allows a network of tubes filled with glycol to snake between the batteries to cool them effectively.
Tesla builds its own battery packs in its Bay Area headquarters to effectively control the quality and, therefore, guarantee its durability.
Regular square batteries are difficult to cool and to package in a car. Regular battery packs use up much-needed storage and passenger space.
The inverter in the car converts the battery packs’ direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) to power the three-phase induction motor.
The inverter is also connected to the accelerator and, therefore, controls the speed of the car.
That 270kW induction motor provides instant torque and the Tesla’s transmission consists of a single gear. Just one gear is needed from standstill to top speed.
The Tesla’s lightweight electric architecture allows it to accelerate from standstill to 100kph in 2.28 seconds and makes it the fastest accelerating production car in the world.
The architecture includes a lot of aluminium construction to reduce weight, from its suspension to its chassis.
To charge the Tesla, the company recommends installing a recharging station in your home. A regular electrical outlet will also charge the Tesla, but the High Power Wall Charger, as Tesla calls it, will charge the Tesla in half the time.
Tesla is also in the process of installing hundreds of “supercharging” stations on highways (across the United States and in parts of Canada) and some petrol stations here in Malaysia also have charging stations.
Tesla cars equipped with the most powerful battery packs available can travel at 88kph for up to 480km on a single charge. The Tesla also has regenerative braking to boost charging and extend driving range.
Tesla cars have revolutionised the electric vehicle industry. Being environment friendly and having a sporty performance are just the icing on the Tesla’s good looks.