If you’re thinking of going electric, you might find all of the new terms and information a little overwhelming. Some terms get misused and there can be a fair amount of misinformation out there.
In this EV 101 we will run through all the basics to get you up to speed.
Types of electric vehicles (EVs)
To start, let’s get a handle of all the different types of electric vehicles available. There are two main types of plug-in electric vehicle:
Battery electric vehicles (BEVs)
- A vehicle with a motor powered entirely by electricity from a battery
- No petrol or gasoline engine
- Primarily recharges at a charging station or electrical outlet, although some energy can be recovered with regenerative braking
- Creates no emissions from a tailpipe (BEVs don’t even have a tailpipe!)
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs)
- A vehicle with a combination of a gas or petrol-powered combustion engine and a rechargeable battery
- Can either be driven on pure electric power or get a longer range from a combination of the fuel engine and electric motor
- Some PHEV models only use fuel when the battery is low, like a backup generator
You may also hear of hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), which can’t be plugged in.
Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs)
- Has a full-sized fuel-powered engine
- A small battery is charged through regenerative braking
- Can drive short distances at low speeds with the electric motor
- Not generally considered electric
Looking at the types of EV charging
There are three levels of EV charging, which refer to the time it will take you to charge your electric vehicle. Level 1 chargers take the most time, DC fast chargers take the least time.
- This charger normally comes free when you purchase an EV
- Works with a standard 120v household connection
- Delivers a maximum power of up to 1.4 kW
- Provides between 3-5 miles of range per hour
- This is the most common household charging level for EVs
- Works with a 240v household connection, which needs to be installed
- This charger is purchased separately to your EV
- Delivers about 7 kW of power
- Provides between 10-20 miles of range per hour
- Can fully charge a vehicle in around 3-7 hours
- *Tesla chargers have a maximum power up to 11.5 kW, providing up to 44 miles of range per hour
DC Fast Charge (DCFC)
- A common public charging station
- Not all vehicles are capable of charging with a DCFC
- Delivers between 50-100 kW of power
- Can bring a typical 100-mile EV to around 80% in just a half hour
- Tesla has their own network and connections
All EV manufacturers in North America (except Tesla) use the SAE J1772 connector for Level 1 and 2 charging. Tesla provides an adapter cable with every car so that they can use charging stations with a J1772 connector. This means that every EV in North America can use any charging station that comes with this connector.
Here’s a full breakdown of the connectors and the charging level that they work with.
|Port J1772 (otherwise known as a J-plug)||1 & 2||100% EVs|
|CHAdeMO||DCFC||Check your EV*|
|SAE Combo, or CCS (short for Combined Charging System)||DCFC||Check your EV*|
|Tesla HPWC||2||Adapter required for non-Tesla|
|Tesla Supercharger||DCFC||Tesla only|
*If your car has a CHAdeMO port, it won’t be able to charge using an SAE Combo plug and vice versa.
Common terms and acronyms
Now that we’ve covered the vehicles and how to charge them, let’s look at some of the common terms you’ll hear thrown around when people are talking about EVs.
Charging station – Otherwise known as a charging point, outlet, port, plug or an EVSE ( Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment). This is the technology you use to charge your EV at home or on the road.
Before you go to a public station make sure you know your EV’s compatibility with different charging connectors (see above) and check the connectors that are available. Some EVs can’t use DC fast charging stations and some stations may only have one connector style available. Others might have both. However, if you drive a Tesla and you head to any Tesla charging station, you know you’re good to go.
Kilowatt (kW) – A unit of power. When we’re talking about the different levels of charger, we are talking about the amount of power that can be provided to the vehicle – which determines the charging speed. The general rule of thumb is the higher the kW, the faster it will charge your EV.
Kilowatt-hour (kWh) – A measurement of energy. An EV battery size is measured in kWh, showing their total energy capacity. So, it’s the equivalent of gallons of fuel in a gas tank. One gallon will drive you a certain distance, and one kWh of energy in a battery will drive you a certain number of miles. Roughly, a kWh will get you about 4 miles – though every EV is different.
Mileage range (or just range) – How many miles you should be able to get out of your EV on a full battery. There are a bunch of factors that can affect the real-world range and when you’re selecting a new EV you will want to check what range you should be able to get.
Range anxiety – The worry that your car will run out of battery power before you arrive at your destination. Battery technology has come a long way and many new models of EVs have over 200 miles of range, so this is becoming much less of an issue for EV drivers.
Regenerative braking – A method of braking used by all EVs and HEVs, where energy from the braking of the vehicle is stored in the battery so that it can be used again later.
It seems like they keep adding new terms and technology every day, but hopefully this helped explain some of the basics. Making the switch to an EV may be intimidating at first but you should have enough info to feel comfortable with your decision.