Types Of Electric Vehicles: A Short Guide

Nissan Leaf EV

Image Credit: NissanUSA

In the last few years, advances in the field of electric vehicles mean that the market is becoming more competitive, with Tesla coming up against Nissan for the best electric cars. But these are just two brands in what is now quite a large and varied range.

Electric Vehicles” is an umbrella term, and a wide one. They come in a range of different types, from various manufacturers and in a number of models. These “types” also run on different amounts of electric power, with some interchanging between other sources of fuel that offer different speeds, environmental impact and more.

Electric Vehicles, or “EVs” can be broken down into:

  • BEVs: Battery Electric Vehicles (electricity only)
  • HEVs: Hybrid Electric Vehicles (electricity, petrol/diesel)
  • PHEVs: Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (electricity, petrol/diesel)
  • E-REVs: Extended Range Electric Vehicles (electricity, petrol/diesel)
  • FCEVs: Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (electricity, hydrogen)

This short guide will help you to understand the terminology used for each of these types of electric vehicle, what each can do, what the limits are and any features of that type, so you can make the right decision when selecting your next, or first, electric car.

BEV: Battery Electric Vehicle

Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs), also known as “pure electric vehicles”, are powered entirely by electricity. They don’t have a petrol engine, fuel tank or exhaust pipe. Well known electric cars such as the Tesla X and Nissan LEAF are BEVs. BEVs exist as buses, motorbikes, scooters and even boats, as well as cars.

BEVs are plug-in electric vehicles which use an external outlet to charge the battery. Though this can be a traditional home outlet, it is recommended that a home charging point is installed as it is much more efficient for charging – e-zoomed has a charging and accessories store coming soon, offering all the options you need for fast home charging.

These fully electric vehicles also have an internal way of charging it’s batteries, using what is called Regenerative Braking. Regenerative Braking uses the effort of slowing the vehicle to recharge the internal battery, making the most of the kinetic and heat energy that most cars waste.

How regenerative braking works

Image Credit: Thesis123.com

In Battery Electric Vehicles, electricity is stored within onboard high-capacity battery packs. These are batteries specifically designed to power a car, or other vehicle, not the ones you might be used to. The battery packs are used for all the electronics with the BEV, along with the electric motor.

BEVs get extra green points, compared to other types of EVs, as they do not create any harmful emissions or any of the hazards that we have come to expect from petrol and diesel powered vehicles.

Popular Battery Electric Vehicles include:

  • BMW i3
  • Renault Zoe
  • Hyundai Ioniq
  • Kia Soul
  • Nissan LEAF
  • Tesla Model S
  • Tesla X
  • Toyota Rav4
  • Volkswagen e-Golf

You can find a list of new electric vehicles to buy on our website, and we can assist you in finding competitive car finance for your electric vehicle too.

BEVs are best for

BEVs are ideal electric cars for short to medium commutes, such as your school run, commute to work or weekly grocery shop. You’ll also be able to use BEVs for day outings at the weekend, taking a family trip or visiting friends. If you are considering a BEV for business, you’ll be able to make short to medium distance trips.

HEV: Hybrid Electric Vehicle

Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV)

Image Credit: Toyota Europe

If BEVs are perhaps the most well known of the types of electric vehicles, conventional hybrids are second. Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) to give them their full title, are what most drivers will know of, if they know about hybrids at all. They first become widely available in 1997 with the release of the Toyota Prius.

Conventional Hybrids are powered by both petrol/diesel and electricity. With HEVs, they begin by using the electric motor. The conventional power source then kicks in when higher speeds are needed or when the weight of the vehicle necessitates more power. The electric battery is then charged through regenerative braking, like with BEVs, and not via an external source.

The two motors in a conventional hybrid are controlled by an internal computer system. This system makes decisions on whether to use the electric or petrol motor based on which would be most economical. It will then take into account other factors like driving conditions and cruising speeds so that your vehicle is always operating the way you need it to.

We can support you in getting electric car finance, when you are ready to buy a BEV.

Popular Conventional Hybrids include:

  • Toyota Camry Hybrid
  • Toyota Prius Hybrid
  • Honda Civic Hybrid

HEVs are best for

Like BEVs, HEVs are great electric vehicles for short to medium journeys. They can also make longer journeys. Getting to and from the office, taking the family to school and on shopping trips are all well within an HEV’s capability. For business use, you can travel between nearby towns and cities, making HEVs a good choice as a work car.

PHEV: Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)

Image Credit: Mini.co.uk

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) have a very “says what it does” name. Like the BEVs, the electric battery can be charged using an external charger, and it uses conventional fuels for its second motor in the same way as the Conventional Hybrids. In fact, because of this, PHEVs have been found to save up to 60% in energy costs compared to other hybrids.

One way in which PHEVs differ from the Conventional Hybrids is that, since they use an external charger for the electric motor, they are able to have a zero emission range. A zero emission range is when ‘a car or van that emits 75g/km CO2 or less’ and is an important factor in making sure that vehicles, especially cars, are greener.

Another way that PHEVs differ from standard hybrids is that they can only travel at low speeds for a short distance before their conventional engine activates. With PHEVs, at least some models, they are able to travel for up to 40 miles before gas power is needed. This means that driving a PHEV would suit those who are driving mostly on country roads or in between villages, rather than on motorways or on long journeys, if they want to make the most of the electric power.

The battery for a PHEV is, perhaps unsurprisingly, significantly smaller than BEVs, which means that although it is capable of making shorter journeys on electric power, the conventional combustion engine is needed for longer trips.

Some popular Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles include:

  • Chevy Volt
  • Ford Fusion Energi
  • Mercedes GLE550e
  • Mini Cooper SE Countryman
  • Audi A3 E-Tron
  • BMW X5 xDrive40e
  • Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid
  • Volvo XC90 T8
  • VW Golf GTE
  • Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
  • Prius Plug-In

E-REV: Extended Range Electric Vehicle

BMW i8 Tail Light

Image: BMW i8

Extended Range Electric Vehicles (E-REVs) have a considerable range of power sources to choose from, which also means that depending on the model of E-REV, how and when it uses each of them varies widely. For example, the Toyota Prius favours it’s petrol engine over electric power.

E-REVs are powered with a conventional engine (using petrol), a plug-in battery pack and an electric motor. This combination aims to allow these vehicles to complete most journeys with electric power, but with the combustion engine as a backup. In reality, how effective this is comes down to the model, with some offering a range of 125 miles on pure electric power. Due to the reliance on electric, E-REVs can have less than 20g/km of CO2 emissions. To put this in perspective, the current EU target for vehicles is 95 grams of CO2 per kilometre, meaning E-REVs are exceeding that goal.

In terms of operation, these vehicles will make the most of electric power and then switch to the conventional engine when more power or speed is needed, or the battery runs out of power. The key differences between E-REVs and PHEVs is that the wheels are always driven by the electric motor in E-REVs, and E-REVs use a much smaller engine than PHEVs.

Well known Extended Range Electric Vehicles include:

  • BMW i3
  • BMW i8
  • Chevrolet Volt (now defunct)
  • Vauxhall Ampera (now defunct)

FCEV: Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle

Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV)

Image Credit: www.mercedes-benz.com

Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs), also called Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles, have a fuel cell stack that uses hydrogen to create the electricity needed to power the wheels of the vehicle, not unlike the E-REVs.

Interestingly FCEVs are hybrids, but not in the way we might expect. They do not use an internal combustion engine, rather they use a battery (or ultracapacitor) and fuel cell. The fuel cell is an electrochemical device that, unlike in a pure electric car battery, does not need charging. Rather the fuel cell produces electricity and heat with water produced at the tailpipe. It is able to generate power for as long as there is a steady supply of hydrogen.

Since Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles aren’t charged, you can refill them at refilling stations. Instead of petrol though, you refill the hydrogen. It takes between three and five minutes to refuel, which is much shorter than the charge times for even the fastest charging points for BEVs. They have a range of 300 miles between refillings, which means that they utilise electric power without limiting your travel distances like many electric vehicles.

Well known Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles include:

  • Honda FCX Clarity
  • Hyundai Nexo
  • Mercedes-Benz F-Cell
  • Riversimple Rasa
  • Toyota Mirai

Finding the Right Type of Electric Vehicle for your needs

Performance is unique to each model of electric car, whether pure or hybrid. How speed, environmental impact, and distance measure up to the needs of your lifestyle will have a determining effect on which type of EV you go for. If you don’t have to travel across the country and want to be as green as possible, the BEV is ideal. If you want to use a little electric without sacrificing power, then a PHEV will serve you better.

The decision is up to you. When you are ready to buy an EV, whatever type you choose, you can use e-zoomed as a one stop shop. This includes financing, insurance, breakdown cover and green power for your new electric car.


Author

Ashvin Suri

Ashvin has been involved with the renewables, energy efficiency and infrastructure sectors since 2006. He is passionate about the transition to a low-carbon economy and electric transportation. Ashvin commenced his career in 1994, working with US investment banks in New York. Post his MBA from the London Business School (1996-1998), he continued to work in investment banking at Flemings (London) and JPMorgan (London). His roles included corporate finance advisory, M&A and capital raising. He has been involved across diverse industry sectors, to include engineering, aerospace, oil & gas, airports and automotive across Asia and Europe. In 2010, he co-founded a solar development platform, for large scale ground and roof solar projects to include the UK, Italy, Germany and France. He has also advised on various renewable energy (wind and solar) utility scale projects working with global institutional investors and independent power producers (IPP’s) in the renewable energy sector. He has also advised in key international markets like India, to include advising the TVS Group, a multi-billion dollar industrial and automotive group in India. Ashvin has also advised Indian Energy, an IPP backed by Guggenheim (a US$ 165 billion fund). He has also advised AMIH, a US$ 2 billion, Singapore based group. Ashvin has also worked in the real estate and infrastructure sector, to including working with the Matrix Group (a US$ 4 billion property group in the UK) to launch one of the first few institutional real estate funds for the Indian real estate market. The fund was successfully launched with significant institutional support from the UK/ European markets. He has also advised on water infrastructure, to include advising a Swedish clean technology company in the water sector. He is also a member of the Forbury Investment Network advisory committee. He has also been involved with a number of early stage ventures.

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