Types Of Electric Cars: The Complete Guide For The UK

Volvo electric cars

Electric Cars: The Basics

For those of you new to zero-emission electric driving, we recommend a read of the following articles:

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As we commence 2023, there is good reason for ‘celebration’ for the EV sector, as it continues to achieve new milestones. The first half of 2022 witnessed the delivery of 4.3 million battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), globally. Sales of pure electric cars were up 75% for this period.

A 62% increase compared to the same period the previous year. Figures for the second half 2022 have yet to be released, but we expect the positive momentum to have continued. An impressive performance, given the lacklustre performance of the ‘traditional’ automotive sector! 

SMMT new car registrations UK
UK New Car Registrations: November 2022 (credit: SMMT)

In the UK, the registration of battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) increased by 38% in 2022, compared to 2021 (source: SMMT). A total of 224,919 BEVs were registered (30th November 2022). EVs now command a UK market share over 20%!

Also worth highlighting, is the increased momentum in the sales of pure electric vans. According to the SMMT, BEV van registration is up 46.5% in 2022, compared to 2021. However, electric vans account for only a 5.8% UK LCV market share. We expect this to increase significantly in the years to come, driven by legislation and customer choice.

The EV industry has come a long way since the introduction of the first generation all-electric Nissan Leaf in 2010, an awkward looking EV, with a 24 kWh onboard EV battery and an electric range just over 70 miles. The newest electric cars could not be more different, in terms of exterior styling, electric range, onboard technology and performance.

An all-electric car, like the Mercedes-Benz EQS saloon demonstrates the progress of the electric driving sector. The EV has a quoted WLTP range over 450 miles on a full charge and is technology-packed. The EV can achieve 0-62 mph in 6.2 seconds. But Mercedes-Benz is not the only automotive manufacturer to deliver impressive e-range, onboard technology and performance. The likes of BMW, Ford, Polestar, Lotus and Tesla, all have BEVs on sale today, capable of delivering an electric range well over 300 miles and in some cases even better performance than the EQS!

EV charging capability and public charging infrastructure has also continued to develop with equal enthusiasm. The latest electric cars offer DC charging capability up to 270 kW DC, though most tend to offer between 100 kW to 150 kW DC. In any case, an 80% charge in 30 minutes is now the norm! Residential EV charging has also developed further, with smart charging and smart EV chargers continuing to evolve, further enhancing the advantages of EV ownership. Bidirectional charging is now at our doorstep, and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) large-scale deployment, a reality.

Even vehicle-to-home (V2H) capability is well positioned to play a key role in the national energy supply framework. We can expect the continued development of the residential energy ecosystem, to include, on-site renewable energy, battery storage and EV charging. 

As we continue to approach 2030 i.e. the year the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles will be banned in the UK, we can expect a significant increase in the uptake of environmentally-friendly electric cars and electric vans.

Electric Vehicles (EVs): The Different Types

Electric Vehicles” is a broad ‘umbrella term’ used to describe a number of different types of vehicles that use some form of electric power (electric motor) for propulsion. EVs come in all shapes and sizes, to include passenger cars, electric vans, electric buses and even more! Today there are more than 200 models of EVs available on sale globally. Even the likes of the famed ultra-luxury automotive manufacturer, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, has joined the ‘electrification movement’, with the launch of the all-electric Rolls-Royce Spectre.

rolls royce spectre
The All-Electric Rolls-Royce Spectre (credit: Rolls-Royce)

Though electric cars, like the, best-selling Tesla Model 3 battery-electric vehicle (BEV), have inspired many to migrate to electric driving, other EVs like the hydrogen fuelled, Toyota Mirai fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV), will continue to play an important role in the ever changing technological landscape of electric driving. For the medium term, we can expect battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) to take the dominant technological position, but we expect much to change over the next 30 to 50 years in terms of electric cars and the technology in the lead!

Though there are many types of electric vehicles, the table below lists the EVs that are most relevant to us today! This short guide will help you to understand the terminology used for each of these type of electric vehicles, 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.

Type Of Electric Vehicle (EVs) Description
Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicles (MHEVs)Mild hybrids use both an internal combustion engine (ICE) and electric motor. These cars are also known as ‘self-charging hybrids’. The vehicle uses regenerative braking (recuperated electric energy) to improve the fuel efficiency (mpg) and to reduce tailpipe emissions (CO2 g/km). However, mild hybrids cannot be charged by an external power source (i.e. EV charger). The recuperated electric energy is also used to boost the the combustion engine, enhancing acceleration. Automotive manufactures (OEMs) like Toyota are one of the pioneers in developing and introducing mild hybrid vehicles. The ubiquitous Toyota Prius mild hybrid is an excellent example. Toyota also helped popularise the use of mild hybrids in the premium segment via its wholly owned Lexus brand.
Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) aim to achieve the same objectives as a MHEV i.e. increase fuel efficiency and reduce tailpipe emissions. However there is much difference between a PHEV and a MHEV. The PHEV has a larger electric motor and onboard EV battery, that is used to assist the internal combustion engine (ICE), but also to propel the vehicle. In a MHEV, the small onboard electric motor does not propel the vehicle. PHEVs come in varied EV battery sizes, but in general, most PHEVs have an EV battery size below 20 kWh. A plug-in electric car is capable of up to 25 miles zero-tailpipe emission electric miles. However, some PHEVs are capable of even longer electric miles. The Volvo XC60 PHEV is a good example of a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle with a longer range (48.5 miles). Unlike a MHEV, a PHEV EV battery is charged by using an external power source, like a dedicated EV charger.
Battery-Electric Vehicles (BEVs)A battery-electric vehicle is more commonly referred to as a pure electric car. The EVs are ‘pure’ in that, the vehicle only uses electric power for propulsion i.e. a BEV does not have an internal combustion engine (ICE). It is easy to recognise these zero-tailpipe emission green cars, as these vehicles are silent (except for the artificial noise) and do not have a tailpipe! The electric vehicles have a much larger onboard EV battery than a PHEV. The EV battery on a BEV can be as large as 120 kWh, though an average in 60 kWh. In any case, most BEVs have an EV battery larger than 30 kWh. BEVs also use regenerative braking to improve the vehicle efficiency and electric range. However, the main source for the EV range is the EV battery, which can only be charged using an external power source, like an EV charger. BEVs can vary in electric range, depending on a number factors. However, the more recent BEVs deliver a range between 100 miles to 300 miles (WLTP) on a single charge. As an example, the all-electric VW ID.3 has a range up to 336 miles.

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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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