There are many types of electric vehicles, including all-electric hybrid-electric vehicles (BEV), gasoline-reliant hybrid -electric vehicles (HEV), and many others. Many electric vehicles rely on gasoline generators or fuel cells to generate electricity.
An electric vehicle must have an electric motor. This electric motor can be used alone or with an internal combustion engine (ICE) that is gasoline-reliant. All of these vehicles use electric power in some way, but only pure EVs are battery electric vehicles.
The Basic Breakdown
It can be hard to navigate the electric vehicle landscape. However, it is possible to break down the different types of EVs into these basic categories.
- EV/BEV. These pure electric vehicles are also known as battery electric vehicles (EV) or BEV. This vehicle uses a rechargeable lithium battery to power an electric motor. You can charge them slowly at home using an outlet or quickly with a charging station.
- HEV : Hybrid electric cars include an electric motor as well as an internal combustion engine that runs off gas. There are many variations, but the majority of hybrid electric vehicles start with an electric motor and then switch over to a gas engine. Standard HEVs can’t be plugged into the wall to charge. Instead, the HEVs are charged while driving by the gas engine and the regenerative brakes.
- PHEV is a hybrid electric vehicle that can plug in to charge. This type tends to offer a greater all-electric range than traditional hybrids.
- EREV Extended-range electric cars are hybrids that run exclusively on an electric motor and don’t have an internal combustion engine. They have a gasoline generator which can supply electricity to the electric motor and batteries when necessary to extend their range.
- FCEV – Fuel cell electric vehicles differ from other types of electric vehicles. They use fuel cells to generate electricity from a reaction between hydrogen, oxygen and power batteries. They must be recharged at hydrogen charging stations.
Electric Vehicles (EV), and Battery Electric Vehicles(BEV).
The battery electric vehicle is purely electric. BEVs are completely electric, unlike other types of EVs. These vehicles do not have an internal combustion engine, have no tailpipes and emit zero emissions. The battery cannot be charged with an internal combustion engine. It must simply be plugged in.
A BEV can be charged at home or at a charging point. If you wish, you can have a charging station installed at your home. Standard charging, also known as level 1, involves plugging the BEV into an electrical outlet. The charging station typically gives you three to five miles per hour of vehicle use. Level 2 charging is done via a charging station and provides 10 to 20 miles per hour.
BEVs can be charged at DC fast charging stations, in addition to AC charging through a regular wall outlet. A BEV can be charged at a DC fast charging station in 20 minutes, depending on its vehicle.
It’s natural to worry about range, as BEVs must be plugged in and can take quite a while to charge without fast charging stations. The range of BEVs has improved a lot over the years, some able to drive up to 400 miles with a single charge. Even the most expensive BEVs can still go around 100 miles per charge, which makes them great for city driving and commutes. Depending on the range of your BEV, longer trips may require more planning. However, charging stations are readily available in most areas.
Hybrid Electric Vehicles
Hybrid electrics are the first mainstream vehicles to achieve the term EV. This is why the term EV is used to describe vehicles that are not strictly pure electric. These hybrid electric vehicles look a lot like traditional gasoline-powered vehicles, but they have an electric motor as well as an internal combustion engine (ICE).
Electric motors and ICE work together, so the ICE is usually smaller in an electric vehicle than in a nonelectric one.
The HEV’s electric motor will turn on when the vehicle is turned on for the first time. The vehicle’s batteries will draw power from the electric motor during initial operation. The ICE kicks in when the electric motor becomes incapable of handling the load. The ICE can charge the batteries. Regenerative braking can be used to charge some HEVs.
An HEV’s electric motor will work in reverse when it is not being used. This means that the battery charge can be generated in reverse and the vehicle moves instead of drawing power. This can increase the HEV’s range and reduce emissions. HEVs still emit about two-thirds of the carbon dioxide of vehicles that rely on a gas-powered ICE.
An HEV’s main advantage is its convenience. An HEV is the same as an ICE vehicle from the point of view of the driver. The HEV can still be filled with gasoline like a traditional ICE car, but the electric component is hidden under the hood. Driver input is not required. They still use fossil fuels and produce significant carbon emissions.
Plug-in Hybrids: Parallel and Series
There are two types of plug-in hybrid electric cars: series and parallel. The parallel version is often referred simply to as PHEV. While the series variant can be called extended range electric vehicles, (EREV),
The difference between standard PHEVs and EREVs is that EREVs can supply electricity to the electric motors and batteries.
The primary distinguishing feature of PHEVs, as their name suggests, is that they can be plugged in like other BEVs. They are very similar to standard hybrid-electrics. Both an ICE as well as an electric motor are still available. They can work together or separately. The main difference between a PHEV and a regular car is the larger battery. PHEVs can run primarily on their battery, with the ICE kicking in to give them extra range and torque.
Parallel PHEVs are referred to because the electric motor (ICE) and the battery work in parallel. Both are mechanically connected to the drivetrain, which allows for the ICE to operate by itself and the electric motor to function independently or to help each other. This type of PHEV is a combination of an ICE and a BEV. Both systems can work independently or together.
Some PHEVs can run up to 50 miles on all-electric without the ICE. Others use the ICE frequently, making it difficult to reduce carbon emissions.
EREVs can be used as plug-in hybrids. They are similar to standard PHEVs. The difference between EREVs and standard PHEVs is that they are intended primarily to be electric vehicles and don’t have an internal combustion engine. This vehicle instead has a gasoline-powered generator. The generator can only generate electricity. It is not connected to the vehicle’s drivetrain.
An EREV can be described as a combination of a BEV and an emergency gas generator. They can be plugged in to charge like other PHEVs and run on battery power under most conditions. The difference is that the gas generator kicks in when the power is low and provides power to the electric engine. Any additional electricity is used to charge the battery.
Unlike BEVs, EREVs produce no tailpipe emissions when they are run in an all-electric mode without the gas generator. They do however produce carbon emissions when the gas generator is on. However, the range of all-electric models is typically around 80 miles. Some models provide even shorter ranges.
Fuel cell electric vehicles
The fuel cell technology generates electricity with no carbon emissions. This is a fascinating technology. Although there have been many fuel cell technologies in the past, the current FCEVs all depend on the reaction of hydrogen and oxygen. The fuel cells are charged using hydrogen. This is then used to create electricity. An electric motor is powered by electricity, in the same way that batteries power BEVs. The only byproducts of electricity are water vapor, and warm air.
Fuel cells rely on hydrogen for their operation, so they must be regularly charged with hydrogen in the same way that you would fuel an ICE car with gasoline or diesel. There are very few hydrogen fueling stations in California, whereas gas stations are plentiful.
FCEVs can only be used in California because there is no hydrogen fueling infrastructure. These vehicles are not suitable for long trips, despite their ranges of up to 366 miles. You can only travel half the distance from the closest fueling station.
If you live near a Los Angeles fuel station, you wouldn’t be able to take a weekend trip down to Las Vegas. Although the distance to Las Vegas is within your reach, it would be impossible to fill up with fuel before you return home. Even if your FCEV could travel 366 miles, it would run out of hydrogen somewhere in desert when you return. A long-range BEV can be charged up prior to the return trip. A shorter range BEV can stop at charging stations on the way.
Why are there so many types of EVs available?
Although electric vehicle technology has been around since over 200 years ago, it was only recently that it came back to focus and began evolving quickly in the past few decades.
The greatest obstacles were battery range and battery capacity. Hybrids were created to bridge this gap between the newer battery technologies and consumer demand for electric cars.
Plug-in hybrids fill the same role, using batteries and electric motors to reduce tailpipe emissions.
Pure electric BEVs are the best option if the ultimate goal of zero emission vehicles is achieved, which some states have done.
Some BEVs with high-end performance and range already surpass PHEVs and ICE cars in terms of performance and range. However, battery technology advances and efficiency improvements are likely to close that gap.
Other zero-emission options like FCEVs offer a tempting alternative. However, the infrastructure is more or less in place for BEVs while FCEVs are still a small-scale experiment.