An electric vehicle (EV), also referred to as an electric drive vehicle, uses one or more electric motors or traction motors for propulsion. Three main types of electric vehicles exist, those that are directly powered from an external power station, those that are powered by stored electricity originally from an external power source, and those that are powered by an on-board electrical generator, such as an internal combustion engine (a hybrid electric vehicle) or a hydrogen fuel cell. Electric vehicles include electric cars, electric trains, electric lorries, electric aeroplanes, electric boats, electric motorcycles and scooters and electric spacecraft.
Electric vehicles first came into existence in the mid-19th century, when electricity was among the preferred methods for motor vehicle propulsion, providing a level of comfort and ease of operation that could not be achieved by the gasoline cars of the time. The internal combustion engine (ICE) is the dominant propulsion method for motor vehicles but electric power has remained commonplace in other vehicle types, such as trains and smaller vehicles of all types.
During the last few decades, environmental impact of the petroleum-based transportation infrastructure, along with the peak oil, has led to renewed interest in an electric transportation infrastructure. Electric vehicles differ from fossil fuel-powered vehicles in that the electricity they consume can be generated from a wide range of sources, including fossil fuels, nuclear power, and renewable sources such as tidal power, solar power, and wind power or any combination of those. Currently, though, there are more than 400 coal power plants in the U.S. alone.However it is generated, this energy is then transmitted to the vehicle through use of overhead lines, wireless energy transfer such as inductive charging, or a direct connection through an electrical cable. The electricity may then be stored on board the vehicle using a battery, flywheel, or super capacitors. Vehicles making use of engines working on the principle of combustion can usually only derive their energy from a single or a few sources, usually non-renewable fossil fuels. A key advantage of electric or hybrid electric vehicles is regenerative braking and suspension; their ability to recover energy normally lost during braking as electricity to be restored to the on-board battery.