The number of electric vehicles on our roads is growing, and people are becoming more comfortable with EVs as time goes on. Driving range estimates are improving, charging times are becoming faster, and the federal government has made accessing tax credits easier for buyers.

That said, there is still plenty of confusion in the industry when it comes to some of the most common EV terms the media and automakers throw around. We’ve grabbed a handful of our most-used terms to give you a quick overview. Here are some of the most common EV terms you’ll see and what they mean.

Tesla Ford NACS Supercharger Double Park

Charging Levels

Charging is broken down into three Levels based on their speed. Level 1 chargers are the slowest, taking a day or more to charge an EV. Level 2 chargers are common in public as destination chargers, such as at a hotel or movie theater. They provide 240 volts and can charge an EV in about four hours. Level 3 charging is the fastest currently available, taking as little as half an hour to add meaningful range. Tesla Superchargers fall into this category.

DC And DC Fast Charging

DC 

Direct Current – An electric current of constant direction.

DC Fast Charging

The fastest (high-powered) way to charge electric vehicles quickly with an electrical output ranging from 50kW to 350 kW and beyond.
 

Electric Motor

Electric motors convert electrical power from the battery into mechanical motion and is a far more efficient system than a traditional gas engine. They are almost silent and produce torque at much lower RPM than gas engines do, making them feel much livelier and more powerful than their liquid dinosaur-burning counterparts.

Electrified Vehicles

This is the biggie. You may hear the term electrified vehicle thrown around in a variety of contexts, but the thing to remember is that it applies to a range of vehicles. When we say “electrified,” we could be talking about anything with an electric motor and batteries on board, so it could include hybrids, plug-in hybrids, or full battery-electric vehicles. It’s also important to note that being electrified does not necessarily mean a vehicle will have a plug, as traditional hybrids do not require charging.

This definition also applies to mild-hybrid vehicles, which have a small electric motor and cannot operate on electric power for any considerable distance. Mild-hybrid cars use their electrification to produce better performance and replace the traditional ignition system, but they typically do not provide a significant fuel economy benefit.

Ramcharger Explained

EREV

Extended-Range Electric Vehicle. Although the electric motor of a PHEV always drives the wheels, EREVs feature an auxiliary power unit, usually an internal combustion engine, that acts as a generator to recharge the battery when it runs out.

EVSE

Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment. A safety protocol that enables two-way communication between a charging station and an electric vehicle. Basically, it controls the safe current flow between the charger and your EV.

2016 Toyota Mirai

Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles

Currently, hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) are only available in California, but that might change. They are more efficient than traditional internal combustion engines and only emit water instead of carbon dioxide. Also, similar to EVs, FCEVs are nearly silent during regular operation.

ICE

Internal Combustion Engine –The technical name for the gas-powered engine in most cars, SUVs, and trucks. It generates power by igniting an air-fuel mixture within a cylinder that forces down a piston. 

kW

A kilowatt is a unit of power. The unit symbol for the kilowatt is "kW." Based on the International System of Units (SI), one kilowatt equals 1000 watts.

A kilowatt is one thousand times higher than a watt which is why it is used as a more fitting unit of measurement.

kWh

Kilowatt-hour - A unit of energy equivalent to the energy transferred or expended in one hour by one kilowatt of power. Electric car battery size is measured in kilowatt-hours, so think of it as the electric car's equivalent of gallons of fuel in a gas tank.

mpge2

Miles Per Gallon Equivalent (MPGe)

Miles per gallon equivalent is the distance an electric vehicle can travel on 33.7 kWh of electricity, the amount of energy found in a gallon of gas. The Environmental Protection Agency developed the measure as a way to observe efficiency in electric vehicles, and while it’s not the best metric to compare internal combustion engines and EVs because of the range of differences in costs, it’s a solid way to stack electric models against each other on range and battery sizes.

NACS

The North American Charging Standard (NACS), currently being standardized as SAE J3400 and also known as the Tesla charging standard, is an electric vehicle charging connector system developed by Tesla.

It was opened for use to other manufacturers in November 2022. Most automakers have adopted the current or future use of the NACS connector, either with or without adapters.

Charging network operators and equipment manufacturers also announced plans to add NACS connectors.

Plug-In Hybrid

Plug-in hybrids have gas engines, a battery, and at least one electric motor, just like traditional hybrids. They’re slightly different because they have a larger battery and need to be charged, but the positive is that they offer an all-electric range that regular hybrids can’t.

Range

Range is the distance an EV can travel on one charge. The range number can be influenced by several factors, including the external temperature, the driver’s driving style, and even road conditions. You might have heard the term “range anxiety,” which describes EV owners’ worries about reaching a charging station before running out of battery power, but a more pressing concern these days is charging speed, which can take a half-hour or more to recover a meaningful amount of range.

Regenerative Braking

While electric vehicles have traditional brakes, including rotors, pads, calipers, and fluid, their electric motors can work to slow them without using the braking system. Regenerative braking refers to the “reverse” action that effectively turns electric motors into generators, capturing the energy generated by slowing the vehicle.

QuantumScape Solid-State Battery

Solid-State Batteries

Solid-state batteries are the “next big thing” for EVs. Unlike traditional lithium-ion batteries, which use a liquid electrolyte and physical separators between elements, solid-state batteries replace both with a solid electrolyte. The new batteries don’t have to rely on lithium, either, which can be dirty and labor-intensive to extract. Solid-state batteries are also considered to be safer and less susceptible to fire. Without the liquid electrolyte, they are smaller and lighter than regular lithium-ion batteries, which can improve driving range.

Tax Refunds and Incentives

Depending on the vehicle, the federal government may offer tax incentives or rebates to incentivize the purchase. The rules changed in 2024, which significantly slashed the list of eligible vehicles and made it more difficult for non-U.S. brands to compete. Though Ford and General Motors are American brands, their raw material sourcing processes ran afoul of the government’s tax credit rules, rendering many previously eligible vehicles out of luck.

And now we'll answer some common EV-related questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are solid-state batteries available now?

Not yet. They are currently limited to smaller electronics, like wearable devices and even pacemakers, but they haven’t made their way into EVs yet. That could change soon, though, as several companies are working towards commercially viable solutions.

Are plug-in hybrids better than hybrids?

Plug-in hybrids offer some electric range, which for some drivers could mean avoiding the gas station for extended periods. At the same time, they are heavier and more expensive than normal hybrids, and the time it takes to recoup the extra cost through fuel savings can be extensive.

What happens if I forget to charge a PHEV?

Though they have an electric range, PHEVs function like any other hybrid when the battery is depleted. You still have a gas engine, and the electric motor still works to supplement the internal combustion powertrain.

Is hot weather bad for electrified vehicles?

Batteries work harder when it’s hot or extremely cold, as climate systems and other vehicle functions can cause faster drain than driving when it’s temperate outside. That said, it’s worth noting that we’re talking about very high temperatures here, so it won’t be an issue for some drivers.

Do hybrids work at high speeds?

Hybrids are most efficient around town at lower speeds, as the electric motors are generally limited to providing acceleration assistance on take-offs. The gas engine does the work on highways, so fuel use will be higher.

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