Part 2: Why the Gasoline Car to the EV is Like the Horse to the Car

Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.

The complexity of the traditional internal-combustion engine (ICE) car is mind-boggling. Several thousand moving parts are interconnected by belts and gears and need to be constantly oiled and cooled. Air must be continuously pulled in to mix with gasoline to achieve combustion.

While the ICE engine is large, heavy, and “internally combusts” many times each second, the electric engine is exponentially simpler. It’s much lighter and smaller, and you can count the number of moving parts on your right hand; it can be mounted right on the axle. This removes a lot of complexity in car design.

This is the punchline: The engine is the most complex and important part of the ICE car, and it is one of the least complex parts of the electric vehicle (EV) and, perhaps surprisingly, the least important one.

Let’s pause for a second and admire the brilliance of electric car design. It took me owning the car for a few weeks to fully inhale its brilliance. An ICE engine needs to be revved up to 1,500–6,000 RPMs to get optimum torque, then shifting gears results in the desired speed. The electric engine instantly gets to maximum torque; by increasing or decreasing RPMs, the desired speed is achieved without any gears. None! Every time you add gears between the engine and the wheels, you add complexity and lose power. This is why ICE cars are only 30% efficient while EVs are 80% efficient.

Let’s say you want to turn a two-wheel-drive ICE car into four-wheel drive. Now you need to transmit the power from the engine, which sits in the front of the car, to the back of the car. The power has to go through even more oiled metal parts to make it to the back wheels, so you lose power and reduce gas mileage.

The EV solution to four-wheel drive is very different: You just put another watermelon-sized engine on the rear axle and you double the power of the car.