Types of electric vehicles 

There are all different types of alternatively fuelled vehicles, be they all-electric, hybrid, powered by alternative means and all points in-between. Different manufacturers use different terms, making it that little bit more difficult to know exactly what they're talking about!

Here's a few acronyms to help you navigate the new electric world. Firstly the terminology for the vehicles we're more familiar with:

  • ICE - Internal combustion engine, any car that burns fuel be it petrol or diesel.
  • NICE - non-internal combustion engine; any car NOT powered by fuel.
  • De-ICE - To turn an ICE vehicle into a NICE one!
  • NEV - Neighbourhood Electric Vehicle; a small, slow electric vehicle for community use.
  • ULEV - Ultra Low Emission

Moving away from engine cars we see:

  • AFV - Alternatively fuelled vehicle; any vehicle NOT powered by traditional fuels.
  • EV - Electric Vehicle; does what it says on the tin!
  • MHEV - Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle; a mild hybrid cannot run on electric alone, but can assist the engine, normally seen as the start/stop function in some cars
  • ULEV - Ultra Low Emission; a car or van that emits 75g/km CO2 or less.
  • FCV or FCEV - Fuel Cell Vehicle or Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle; uses a fuel cell, instead of a battery, or in combination with a battery, to power its on-board electric motor.
  • RE-EV or EREV - Range Extended Electric Vehicle; the difference from a plug-in hybrid is that the electric motor always drives the wheels, with the internal combustion engine acting as a generator to recharge the battery.
  • BEVs - Battery Electric Vehicle, powered purely by an all-electric drivetrain.
  • Hybrids or HEV - Hybrid Electric Vehicle uses a combination of power sources, most conventionally an internal combustion engine (often referred to as an ICE) and an electric motor. The battery is charged through the braking and whilst the car is being driven.
  • PHEVs or PIV  - Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle or Plug-in Vehicle; similar to a conventional hybrid but the electric motor can be charged through a mains system.
  • FCVs - Fuel Cell Vehicle, the least common of the four in the UK, an electric vehicle that uses a fuel cell instead of a battery for propulsion, most often hydrogen.

Electric Vehicle Currents

This may feel like a return to a secondary school science classroom, but when it comes to electric cars, it’s key to know the difference between AC and DC:

  • AC - Alternating Current. As suggested by the name, power from an AC connection flows back and forth. As a result, AC motors in electric cars allow for recharging of its own batteries.
  • DC - Direct Current. Power flows one way with a DC connection, meaning its usage is limited. However, due to being cheap and widely available, they’re common among entry-level electrified vehicles.

How to charge your electric vehicle

  • Perhaps the most complex part of electric car ownership is understanding the different types of charging, so we’ve broken up the key points:
  • Fast charger - chargers capable of delivering between seven and 22 kilowatts, charging an average EV in three to four hours.
  • Rapid charger - a step up from a fast charger, a rapid charger can deliver up to 150 kilowatts, capable of charging an electric car in less than an hour.
  • Supercharger - Tesla owners can use a Supercharger on their car. Commonly found in cities and motorway service stations, a Supercharger is capable of delivering up to 120 kilowatts and fully charging a car in under two hours.
  • You may also need to know what is:
  • DoD or Depth of Discharge - this refers to the degree to which a battery is discharged in relation to its total capacity. When a battery discharges completely, its DoD is 100%.

What else should I know before buying an electric vehicle?

There’s a whole host of other terms in the world of EVs, but as for key ones, there’s just a few more.

The difference between kilowatts (kW) and a kilowatt hour (kWh). A kilowatt is simply a measurement of how many watts of energy a car can develop, while a kilowatt hour is how much energy a car will use in the space of an hour.

There’s also range, which is the distance a vehicle can cover on one full electric charge. Following that, many people have discussed range anxiety — the fear that one full electric cycle just won’t be enough to get them to their destination.

As electrified vehicles become more integrated into our lives, now is as good a time as any to get your head around complicated terms and understand what you’re looking at when the time comes to buy your own.



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