Electric Car Controllers: Not Just For Video Games

People say controller and you may think of a few things: the device with buttons you use to play video games, the woman that directs air traffic, or (in rare cases) the person who supervises the financial and accounting activities of a business.

We’re thinking of the electric car controller, and here’s why you should think about it too!

On a large-scale, electric car engines aren’t very difficult and have three central components. There is a battery, responsible for operating all functions of the car, a motor that powers the car. The third, a piece missing from gasoline powered engines, is the controller.

Pedal to the Metal

The controller’s job is to interface the battery with the motor and control the amount of electrical energy that the car is using.


Diagram of how a DC motor and controller system function in an electric car. Diagram created by Yiran, based on a diagram from How Stuff Works

When you push the pedal down on a gasoline engine, you allow more or less gasoline into the system to accelerate the car. An electric car’s pedal works the same way, except that the pedal doesn’t connect directly to the battery (to do that would be very inefficient).

The pedal connects to a device called the potentiometer, which converts the pressure into digital information. That data gets passed to the controller, where it turns the data into specific commands on how much battery power to drain and give to the motor.

The controller also regulates how much power can go into the motor at once, avoiding unnecessary burnout and complications caused with a malfunctioning motor.

You can think of the controller in an electric vehicle much like you think of the air traffic controller at an airport. His goal is to ensure that too much traffic does not surge through the system, causing delays and avoiding accidents between planes. A controller works in much the same way, regulating the flow of information the driver provides into a manageable stream of electricity to power the car.


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