Last Updated: 10/03/09
Electric cars are driven by large electric motors usually rated between 3.5 and 28 horsepower. For those accustomed to gas engines, this may not seem like much power, but the rating systems used for gas engines and electric motors are so different that the numbering system is almost meaningless. Gas engines are rated at their peak hp, electric motors are rated at their continuous hp. The peak hp of an electric motor is usually 8 to 10 times its continuous rating.
Electric vehicle drive motors can be divided into two basic groups, DC or direct current motors, and AC or alternating current motors.
DC motors have a long history in EV use. The most commonly used version is what is known as a series-wound motor, which means the armature and field windings are wired in series. Other designs include shunt-wound, compound-wound, and permanent magnet motors.
At the present time AC motors are most commonly found in commercially built EVs, as they require more sophisticated and complex control systems than DC motors. AC control systems for hobbyist conversions are on the horizon, and will likely become available within the next year or two.
Suitable motors for electric conversions are available from most EV parts suppliers. Follow this link for a current list.