Kilowatts and kilowatt-hours. Regenerative braking. People hogging fast chargers to get to 100%. What the what?!
Ever walked into a conversation and not had a clue what people were talking about? I know I have. So we sat down and had a think about what buzzwords we hear the most! We also considered some terms and concepts that we hear people mix up a lot. So if you’re an EV expert, let us know what you think or what we left off our list. If you’re a complete EV novice, stick around, and hopefully, we make things a little clearer.
Number 5… Regenerative Braking
Us EV drivers always talk about Regen, but it’s something that trips people up a lot. Regen is short for Regenerative Braking. But what is it and how does it work? Well, when you want to break in a combustion car, you ease off the accelerator and press the brake pedal. Friction brakes clamp down on the brake disc and slow you down. In an EV, when you ease off the accelerator, you can harness the energy of a moving car to create electricity and charge up the battery. It's also great environmentally as you harness the energy that would have been wasted, and cut down on nasty particulates released by friction brakes!
Different cars have different styles of Regen, and this is where it gets tricky! And if you wanna know more about that then go check out our full video on Regen. In some cars, you can easily toggle between different levels of regen. Some brands call it KERS, Kinetic Energy Recovery System.
It’s really useful on hilly terrain where you can recapture a lot of energy. And also about town where there is a lot of acceleration and deceleration! And once you get used to Regen….it’s so hard to go back to driving a fossil gobbler!
Range! Everyone loves to talk about range anytime an EV is mentioned. And the discussions can get quite heated. But we find that a lot of people don’t really understand the intricacies of the subject.
It’s important to remember that every car has a range…whether petrol, diesel, hybrid, or even a magical ‘self-charging hybrid’! And with the Lucid Air now capable of achieving 500 miles on a single charge at 70mph highway speeds, the gap is closing quickly!
Another aspect that gets misunderstood is how long it takes you to charge. For example, it may take your Tesla a whole night to get back up to 100% on a home charger. But it only took you personally about 5 seconds to plug the car in. If you’re sleeping in bed, who cares if it takes 1 or 10 hours!
But perhaps the biggest misconception on range is how we rate it. ‘How far does it go?’ or ‘what’s the range’ are questions we always get asked. And the answer is…’it depends’!
In terms of official ratings, we generally hear about either EPA or WLTP ranges. Unofficially, you hear about ‘real world’, ‘winter’, or ‘summer’ range. Just like any fossil-fuelled vehicle, the range will be different depending on a whole list of conditions and variables! What’s important to understand is that the EPA or WLTP rating will never be reached if you’re driving full speed on the highway. If you’re pottering around town in summer, you will probably exceed that rating!
What we need is realistic expectations around range! And it’s really only after driving an EV over a full 12-month seasonal cycle and doing a few thousand miles do you get a full and proper understanding of the concept!
Number 3…Charging Curves
Talk of range leads us on neatly to Charging curves. They can be a pretty alien concept to people that have spent their whole lives pumping gas. Stick the nozzle in and squeeze, the fuel comes out at a certain pace, and hey presto, a few mins later you’re full up.
With EVs, it gets a little more complicated. Earlier we mentioned kW and said that the Tesla Model 3 Long Range could charge at a rate just above 200kW. That is true. But it can only do that for a small window during recharging. If you plug in at, say 5%, and the battery is preconditioned, you may well hit 200kW. But quickly enough it will start to drop off…190kW, 180kW, and so on. By the time you get above 90% battery, the car will have slowed right down to about 20 or 30kW and will fall to a simple trickle as it fills up.
This comes to the fore when you see people sitting on rapid chargers at 95%, pulling 5 or 10kW and preventing other people from using the charger. But remember folks, they may not be selfish people, it could just be that they don’t understand the charging curve of their vehicle! In general….once you hit 80%, plug out and move on!
Number 2… ICE, ICE, Baby!
Ice, Ice, Baby!, no not the hit song by Vanilla Ice. I’m talking about I…C…E…which stands for internal combustion engine. It’s a term that we throw around all the time in the EV world. But we forget that most people probably don’t have a clue what it means! When we talk about ICE cars, we’re talking about cars that run only on fossil fuels, that’s pure petrol or pure diesel really! But there’s a couple of other acronyms that get mixed up.
A BEV is a Battery Electric Vehicle that runs solely on electricity used to charge up the car. You cannot put petrol or diesel into a BEV. They’re the ones we love here on this channel!
A PHEV is a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle. In general, these have ok sized batteries and motors. You can plug them in to charge them up. Most can cover 20 or more miles on a charge from the battery alone.
Then you have non-plugin hybrids, mild hybrids and soft hybrids. They are 100% fossil-fuelled. The only way to charge the battery is to visit a gas station, put in fuel, accelerate down the road using a lot of fuel, then take your foot off and let a teeny, tiny bit of energy be recuperated. Unfortunately, they have minuscule batteries and very weak motors. Most can’t go up any sort of hills, can’t go above about 30mph, and even at that will barely cover a mile or two of distance. So many people get confused when manufacturers claim that they charge themselves or that they can cover a large part of the journey in ‘EV mode’.
Number 1… kW -vs- kWh
So let’s finish things off at Number 1…kilowatts and kilowatt-hours…because it’s the one that we hear people mixing up the most. Heck, you even see ads by car manufacturers themselves that mix this up! I mean…come on guys!
A kW is a measurement of power. A kWh is a measurement of energy. Two quite different things…although they sound almost identical! We could spend all day on this one, so instead let’s drill down into the EV specifics.
When we talk about kW we’re generally talking about either the power the car has or how fast it charges. So an old Nissan LEAF will have 80kW of power which equates to 108hp. The Tesla Model 3 that we reviewed recently on this channel has 324kW of power! So if you wanna really get stuck into a conversation about EVs, drop horsepower and start talking kilowatts!
But we also measure how fast our EVs are charging in kW. To stick with the same examples…an older LEAF could charge at a maximum of about 45kW. The Tesla can charge at just over 200kW!
Let’s move on and look at the difference to a kWh. In the EV world, we’re really talking about the size of the battery the car has. Sticking with the older LEAF, which had a usable battery of about 26kWh. The Tesla we reviewed a few weeks ago has a usable battery of 70kWh. A big difference!
That’s our Top 5 EV Buzzwords and concepts that we hear confused the most! Let us know what you think in the comments! What did we leave out? What terms do you hear most confused by family and friends?
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