Electric Vehicle Key Concepts

Conventional gasoline/diesel vehicle

The majority of cars on the road today are con­ven­tional gaso­line/diesel vehi­cles. These vehi­cles are pow­ered from a gaso­line-fueled engine and are refueled at gas stations. They pro­duce high­er amounts of GHGs because of the com­bustion of gas­oline or die­sel within the engine. These vehicles typically have lower fuel econ­omy than hybrids and plug-ins.

Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs)

HEVs are primarily fueled by a traditional gasoline or diesel en­gine that is combined with an elec­tric motor and a battery that re­charges when you slow down or brake. This results in using less fuel than com­peting models with a con­ven­tional gas­oline engine alone. The elec­tric motor provides extra power to the engine, which gives hybrids a higher engine efficiency than most vehicles with con­ven­tional gas engines. HEVs do not need to be plugged in, and they often have a longer range than most gasoline vehicles.

Plug-in Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)

PHEVs are similar to HEVs in that they can run on a conventional gasoline engine and a battery-powered elec­tric motor, but they can be plugged into an outlet to recharge the battery. All new models can run on only elec­tricity, with ranges from about 10–100 miles. However, some PHEVs have more elec­tric power than others. The most powerful ones can run all elec­trically even if driven ag­gres­sive­ly. All are also capable of operating with only gasoline fuel, but will have the best fuel economy and emit fewer GHGs when using the all-elec­tric mode. PHEVs can be plugged into a standard house­hold plug, known as Level 1 charging. Faster charg­ing, or Level 2, can also be in­stalled in the home to charge PHEVs. Learn more about charg­ing here (no link).

Battery Electric Vehicles with Range Extender (BEVxs)

These types of BEVs contain a small en­gine that acts as a range extender by providing power to a generator that de­livers elec­tricity to the battery. In every­day driving this vehicle type will con­sistently be fueled only by elec­tricity, with little or no need for a second charge in the day. The gasoline engine in the two available range extender EVs that have this char­act­er­istic (50–100 mile range) pro­vides the ability to drive be­tween cities without stopping to recharge. However, the β€œBEVx” ver­sion, with the higher amount of elec­trical range, saves mon­ey on its gas­oline option, having less gas­oline range than elec­tric range. It might be used for near­by rural recreation trips, but not for long-distance intercity trips.

Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs)

BEVs only utilize a large battery to power the elec­tric motor. They are charged by plugging into an elec­tric power source, and be­cause they do not use gasoline, no GHGs are emitted from tail­pipes. The range can extend up to more than 300 miles, depending on the vehicle. More range gen­er­ally costs more money, but it also generally provides better accel­er­ation. Although you can charge most EVs with a household plug, there is also the option of a Level 2 charging unit that can be installed in the home. Most BEVs, but not all, also can be β€œfast charged” at public locations. Do not be de­terred from pur­chasing an EV because you do not have a high-power charging circuit close to your parking spot. If you have a plug handy and an all-elec­tric vehicle fits your daily driving needs, consider it along with PHEVs. Learn more about charg­ing here (no link). BEVs require less main­te­nance, and the typi­cal battery lasts 10–12 years.

Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE)

After purchasing a PHEV or BEV, this is the charging equipment that can be installed in the home at either Level 1 or 2. There are three different levels of charg­ing:

  • AC Level 1: This provides 120 volts of charging, typi­cally found in a home outlet. One hour of charging delivers about a 2–5 mile range, so Level 1 is ideal for overnight charg­ing, when about 8 hours could re­plenish an entire battery.
  • AC Level 2: This level pro­vides 240 volts, about a 10–20 mile range per hour of charging. This can be in­stalled for home charging, but is also used for public charging.
  • DC Fast Charging: This is for rapid charging along heavy traffic cor­ridors. In 20 min­utes it can provide enough battery life for a 50–70 mile range. In ideal condi­tions of mild tem­per­atures and a low initial charge, a fast charge to 80% will take about 30 min­utes for a BEV, but longer in cold weather. There are three types of DC fast charg­ing systems, de­pend­ing on the vehicle β€” J1772 combo, ChAdeMO, and Tesla. There are several thou­sand public charg­ing stations in the United States, and the number is growing to include more DC fast chargers.


A vehicle's powertrain consists of those parts or com­po­nents that conduct the vehicle's power from the original source of en­er­gy to the surface of the road. Dif­fer­ent power­trains in­clude internal com­bus­tion en­gines (ICEs), HEVs, PHEVs, and BEVs.

Drive System

The drive system of a car refers to the layout of the engine and main com­po­nents delivering power to the wheels, either 2 or all 4 wheels. In front-wheel drive (FWD) power is de­liv­ered to the two front wheels. In rear-wheel drive (RWD), it goes to the two rear wheels. Two-wheel drive (2WD), usually in trucks and SUVs, can be either FWD or RWD. In all-wheel drive (AWD) and four-wheel drive (4WD), the engine powers all of the wheels.