Skip to main content

# How to understand electric car specifications

While electric cars are certainly the hottest thing since sliced bread, they still represent just 2% of domestic car sales and many of us are very confused about how to compare them to gas-powered cars. All the numbers for EVs, like Kilowatts, Amps, and KwHs are completely unfathomable to most of the public. Luckily, they aren’t too complicated once you know how to compare them to more familiar metrics like horsepower and fuel tank size. Here are the main electric car specifications you need to know how to decrypt:

Contents

## Kilowatts

On an electric car spec sheet, a kilowatt is a lot like a horsepower. You can read it as informing you how powerful the car will feel underneath you, and how fast/quick it will be on the road. One Kilowatt is roughly equal to 1.34 horsepower. When reading up on an EV that has piqued your interest, simply multiply the kW metric by 1.3-1.5 in your head and you’ve got yourself a good approximation of horsepower. For instance, a 100 kW motor would have 140 or so horsepower, and the Tesla’s 451kW across two motors gives it a claimed 680 combined horsepower.

## Kilowatt Hours

Just to make things more confusing, we have another kilowatt-based measurement. Kilowatt-hours are equivalent to battery size and give you the range in an electric car. Most EV spec sheets list the range possible, but the kWh number for the car is another way to see this information quickly. A kilowatt-hour describes how much work you can get out of your battery, not unlike how a fuel tank size tells you how much work you’ll get out of the engine before you run out of fuel. The bigger the kWh, the more capacity you have in the tank as it were.

One kilowatt-hour is analogous to four miles of driving. Take any kWh spec you see on an EV and multiply it by three to get your theoretical maximum range. Taking a 50 kWh battery gives us 150 miles of range, and the Porsche Taycan’s 93 kWh battery gives you the claimed 279 miles of range.

## Kilowatts

I know what you’re thinking — We just covered Kilowatts three paragraphs ago. I know. But the engineers of the electric world don’t want to make this easy for you. Unfortunately for all of us, kilowatts can also apply to an electric car’s charging rate. However, it is generally quite clear in spec sheets and forums when the kW being discussed is charging rate.

In this context, kilowatt refers to the rate at which you can charge the battery of your electric vehicle over the course of an hour. A 10kW charger will add 10 kilowatt-hours to your battery over the course of an hour. Tesla’s company-wide charging rate of 11.5kW will therefore give you 11.5kWh (or 34 miles) per hour of charging. You can see why Superchargers and other quick-charging stations are so advantageous to living with an electric car.

Luckily for all of us, all of the above metrics have largely been standardized across the industry and more manufacturers are relaying electric vehicle specifications in easy to digest horsepower and miles of range. Until then, this guide should help us all navigate our way around the EV buying process.

#### Editors' Recommendations

Former Digital Trends Contributor
I don't have oil in my veins, but I do have it all over my carpets and clothes. Over my 10-year journalistic career, my…
Cybertruck production reportedly halted over pedal issue

Tesla CEO Elon Musk behind the wheel of a Cybertruck. Tesla

Tesla’s Cybertruck has been hit by a production delay caused by an issue with a part of the vehicle, a number of media reports have claimed.

The 6 best car phone holders in 2024

Belkin BoostCharge Magnetic Wireless Car Charger Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Installing a car phone mount in your vehicle is the best way to make sure that you have easy access to your smartphone when behind the wheel. While you shouldn't be using your phone while driving, having it mounted on your windshield, dashboard, vent, or anywhere else will let you take a quick glance when you're using a navigation app, or to change your playlist when you stop for a traffic light, for example. Instead of having to pick up your device, it will be easier and faster to get these done while it's on a car phone mount for less time of having your eyes off the road.

The 6 best car GPS trackers in 2024
For the ultimate peace of mind, equip your car with a GPS tracker

Whether you’re concerned about your vehicle being stolen or just want to keep tabs on a teen driver, you’ve probably considered installing one of the many car GPS trackers. The high price for LoJack or other subscription-based tracker services may have kept you from pulling the trigger, but these days, a highly-rated device is much more affordable. They do come standard in some modern vehicles, but not all, and sometimes cost extra to have installed even by the manufacturer. There's no denying that they are useful. So, if you want to treat yourself to some peace of mind -- whether your vehicle is parked right outside or thousands of miles away -- it might be time to think about installing one of the best GPS trackers for your car.

The best car GPS trackers in 2024