- There are three main types of electric cars: battery electric cars (BEVs), plug-in hybrid electric cars (PHEVs), and hybrid cars.
- BEVs run entirely on electricity and require regular charging, while PHEVs have both electric and gasoline motors and can be charged at home.
- Hybrid cars run on gasoline but also generate small amounts of electricity to improve fuel efficiency.
- Electric cars come in various body styles, including cars, trucks, SUVs, and crossovers.
With all the excitement and news around electric cars, it can be difficult to understand all the different terminology. Not to mention, technology is advancing so fast that it is hard to keep up with the latest models and advancements. Making matters worse is the fact that different manufacturers use different terms and phrases to describe their vehicles.
There are three main types of electric cars and the types are dictated by the way the batteries operate. Fully electric cars require regular charging, while some hybrids cannot be charged. In addition to the three types of charging, you can also classify electric cars by body styles, such as cars, trucks, and SUVs. Now, let’s take a look at the three different types of electric cars you can buy today.
Battery Electric Cars
The first type of electric car we will cover is the one most commonly associated with electric vehicles. A battery electric vehicle (BEV) is one that relies entirely on electricity for its power. Therefore, it only has electric motors and built-in batteries. These cars do not have an internal combustion engine or a conventional drivetrain.
Instead, either one or multiple electric motors send power directly to the wheels. This removes the need for a transmission or differentials. The batteries in most electric cars are safely mounted underneath. To accomplish this, EVs are specifically designed from the ground up rather than retrofitting an existing vehicle model.
Because of the different electric motor options, manufacturers can easily include all-wheel drive by adding another electric motor. Another benefit of an electric car is that you typically get extra storage space under the hood since there is no engine. Surprisingly, a lot of electric cars offer sporty designs and faster speeds than conventional gas-powered cars.
However, there are some downsides to fully electric cars. The biggest drawback is that they need electricity and their range can vary greatly by vehicle. Sometimes charging stations can be difficult to find, especially when traveling. Plus, charging can take hours to complete. An electric car is a great option, but you may want to consider other options if you need to travel long distances regularly.
|Cars run entirely on electricity, with no need for gasoline.||Must charge at home or charging stations.|
|Most EVs have extra space thanks to a front trunk.||Range may drop in extreme temperatures.|
|The most efficient and environmentally friendly electric car option.||Prices are higher than conventional gas cars.|
Plug-in Hybrid Electric Cars
The next type of electric car is a plug-in hybrid (PHEV). These vehicles are growing in popularity because they offer the benefits of gas-powered cars, hybrids, and fully electric cars. Therefore, they come with both electric and gasoline motors. While there are a number of upsides to plug-in hybrids, there are also several major downsides.
Unlike fully electric cars, plug-in hybrids are built on the same platforms as a gasoline vehicle. Meaning you will find popular cars like the RAV4 in a plug-in hybrid variation. Because they use the same platform as a conventional car, manufacturers must fit the electric motor and battery packs somewhere. Typically, they end up in the spare tire’s spot.
The end result in some vehicles is less trunk space and the complete removal of a spare tire. The great thing about plug-in hybrids is how versatile they are. You can charge them at home for your daily commute and run entirely on battery power. However, if you go on a long trip and run out of power, you can start using a gas-powered engine.
This is important because the internal batteries in a plug-in hybrid are not nearly as large as an electric car, so you won’t be able to go on long drives with just electricity. However, plug-in hybrids still function like standard hybrid vehicles when using the gas engine, which means you will generate a small amount of electricity that goes to the electric motor and helps improve fuel economy.
|Automatically draws from batteries first.||More expensive than a conventional hybrid.|
|You can recharge at a charging station.||Most do not come with a spare tire.|
|Still acts as a hybrid when batteries run out.||Still requires occasionally refilling with gas.|
Lastly, we have hybrid cars that run on gasoline but also generate small amounts of electricity to improve fuel efficiency. Unlike an electric car or a plug-in hybrid, there is no way to charge a conventional hybrid. The internal battery is very small and only designed to hold a small amount of power to assist the gas engine.
The most well-known hybrid vehicle is Toyota’s Prius, which actually debuted back in 1997. Since then, Toyota and other manufacturers have added hybrid technology to their vehicles. In rare cases, they designed the cars from the ground up, like the Prius. But in other instances, manufacturers retrofitted an existing model to fit the necessary components.
There are three key components that are required to turn a regular vehicle into a hybrid. The first is the battery which stores electricity until it is needed. Next, there is the electric motor that generates power and sends it to the wheels. However, the motor also serves as a power generator by creating power when braking.
Finally, there is a controller that tells the gasoline engine and electric motor when to turn on and off. Some hybrids turn their gas engines off completely when they don’t need them, while others run in parallel with the electric motor. All of these components come together to provide about a 40 percent improvement in fuel efficiency.
|Comes with both gas and electric motors.||It cannot be recharged at a charging station.|
|The motor functions are controlled entirely by a computer.||They are not nearly as efficient as electric cars.|
|Hybrids are very affordable compared to other electric cars.||Requires regular refilling with gas.|
Types of Electric Cars Compared
|Aspect||Battery Electric Vehicle||Plug-in Hybrid||Hybrid|
|Fuel Economy||100+ MPGe||100+ MPGe (Electric)||45+ MPG|
|Average Range||100-300 Miles||25-50 Miles (Electric)||500-600 Miles|
|Gas Engine Included||No||Yes||Yes|
|Electric Motor Included||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Types of Electric Cars by Body Style
Besides classifying electric cars by the types of powertrain they rely on, we can also classify them by body style. In recent years, more manufacturers are coming out with larger electric vehicles like trucks and SUVs. There are even some high-end cars that really go against many people’s expectations of an electric vehicle.
The most common type of electric vehicle you will find on the road is a car. While cars as a body style include a number of variations, EV sedans are a hot commodity. There are also options like sports cars, which are increasing in popularity.
This is all in stark contrast to where electric cars were just a few short years ago. Electric cars are no longer thought of as slow or small. Instead, they have quickly become synonymous with speed and performance. They are also quite roomy and comfortable. But cars are popular because of their efficiency and low prices. Today, you can get an electric car for not much more than an internal combustion one.
Pickup trucks dominate the US auto market, particularly in rural areas. But trucks have gained popularity with everyday commuters too. Unfortunately, trucks haven’t received EV models nearly as quickly as cars or SUVs. The primary reason is that a truck is larger and heavier, meaning it has bigger motors that require larger batteries.
The good news is that there are a couple of trucks on the market, including the F150 Lightning and Rivian. Both have their own unique problems, but at least it’s a start. Additionally, GM and Dodge are both reportedly working on electric trucks, and more manufacturers will probably follow. The challenge going forward will be figuring out how to tow heavy loads without quickly depleting the battery.
SUVs are continuing to grow in popularity thanks to their roomy interiors that offer ample room for cargo and passengers. The downside is that, just like trucks, SUVs are heavy, so they require more power. Since the amount of power stored in a battery is limited, that means using a larger battery pack and potentially providing less range.
Because SUVs are so popular, many auto manufacturers have pushed to get electric models on the market quickly. Nearly all electric SUVs on the market feature four doors with a rear hatchback. While some electric SUVs are small to mid-size, there are several large models, like the Hyundai Ioniq 7 and Mercedes EQB, that can seat up to seven passengers.
A relatively new type of vehicle is the crossover, which combines the design of both a car and an SUV. The size provides the perfect opportunity for electric vehicle manufacturers. It allows for the use of a car platform while still giving drivers a larger interior. From the outside, you will notice that a crossover sits a little higher than a car.
It also has a long sloping design that provides room for a rear liftgate rather than a trunk. The differences are also noticeable on the inside, where passengers have noticeably more headroom. In addition, the cargo space is open to the rest of the vehicle with lots of space. The growing number of crossover-type electric cars is evident, as shown by models like Ford’s Mustang Mach-E and Nissan’s new Ariya.
Other Electric Vehicles
Passenger cars aren’t the only type of electric vehicle gaining popularity. Smaller and more powerful batteries are paving the way for these other vehicle types. One example is electric motorcycles, which were once thought to be too heavy to be practical. Major manufacturers like Harley-Davidson are even getting on board with electric bikes.
Another emerging type of electric vehicle is semi-trucks. Even though they aren’t practical for cross-country hauling just yet, companies like Tesla and Nikola are trying to change that. In the meantime, electric semis and box trucks are great options for local delivery routes. Although none of these are passenger cars, they undoubtedly shape the future of the overall electric vehicle industry.
What Type of Electric Car Should You Buy?
Choosing the right electric car may feel a bit overwhelming. There are so many options that make it difficult to choose and also downright confusing. However, you should find the one that you like the most, and that you feel the most comfortable driving. Obviously, it is also important to make sure that it fits into your budget.
Choosing between BEV, PHEV, and hybrid is a choice in and of itself. There is no right answer for everyone, but plug-in hybrids are certainly a good choice. This way, you still have the flexibility of gasoline. Otherwise, fully electric cars are a great option; just be sure that they have a long enough range for your average travel. Also, consider the availability of charging stations in your area if you’re going fully electric.
Electric cars are certainly changing the way people get around. Auto manufacturers are adding new electric cars to their lineups every year. Fortunately, the transition from gas to electric doesn’t have to be difficult since you can first go to a hybrid or plug-in hybrid. There is still a lot to look forward to with electric cars, especially as manufacturers begin testing self-driving features.
|Type of Electric Car||Description|
|Battery Electric Cars||Relies entirely on electricity for its power. It only has electric motors and built-in batteries.|
|Plug-in Hybrid Electric Cars||Offer the benefits of gas-powered cars, hybrids, and fully electric cars. Come with both electric and gasoline motors.|
|Hybrid Cars||Run on gasoline but also generate small amounts of electricity to improve fuel efficiency.|
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