Since 2008, a renaissance in electric vehicle manufacturing occurred due to advances in batteries, concerns about increasing
oil prices, and the desire to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions. Several national and local governments have established
tax credits, subsidies, and other incentives to promote the introduction and now adoption in the mass market of new electric vehicles depending on battery size and their
all-electric range. The current maximum tax credit allowed by the US Government is $7,500 per car. Compared with cars with internal combustion (IC) engines, electric cars are quieter and have no
tailpipe emissions. When recharged by low-emission electrical power sources, electric vehicles can reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to IC engines. Where oil is imported, use of electric vehicles can reduce imports. However, a proper analysis of the overall benefit/efficiency of an electric vehicle must include what type of source was used to charge the battery, the energy required to make the battery, and the energy expended in disposing of it, in an environmentally sound manner.
Recharging can take up to an hour, however this amount of time is being reduced as the technology improves. A major limiting factor is that currently (2017) there is inadequate
recharging infrastructure for long routes, though many owners use home charging stations instead of commercial infrastructure. Battery cost limits range and increases purchase cost over IC vehicles, but battery costs are decreasing. Drivers can also sometimes suffer from
range anxiety – the fear that the batteries will be depleted before reaching their destination. – though, in 2018, ranges over 160 km (100 mi) are typical of new models; and some makers (Tesla; General Motors) offer models with real-world ranges well over 320 km (200 mi), which is comparable to the range of a gasoline-fueled car.
As of December 2015, there were over 30 models of highway legal all-electric passenger cars and utility vans available. Cumulative global sales of highway-capable light-duty pure electric vehicles passed one million units in total, globally, in September 2016. The
Nissan Leaf is the world's all-time best-selling highway-capable electric car in history, with over 300,000 units sold globally by January 2018. Ranking second is the
Tesla Model S with almost 213,000 units sold worldwide through December 2017.
Electric cars are a variety of
electric vehicle (EV). The term "electric vehicle" refers to any vehicle that uses electric motors for propulsion, while "electric car" generally refers to highway-capable
automobiles powered by electricity.
Low-speed electric vehicles, classified as
neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs) in the United States, and as electric
motorised quadricycles in Europe, are plug-in electric-powered
city cars with limitations in terms of weight, power and maximum speed that are allowed to travel on public roads and city streets up to a certain posted speed limit, which varies by country.
While an electric car's power source is not explicitly an on-board battery, electric cars with motors powered by other energy sources are generally referred to by a different name. An electric car carrying
solar panels to power it is a
solar car, and an electric car powered by a gasoline generator is a form of
hybrid car. Thus, an electric car that derives its power from an on-board battery pack is a form of
battery electric vehicle (BEV). Most often, the term "electric car" is used to refer to
battery electric vehicles.