Essential List of Electric Vehicle Terminology

Essential List of Electric Vehicle Terms

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As with any new technology, the jargon of Electric Vehicles (EVs) can be quite foreign and extensive to the average car shopper. With the rapid rise of EVs, it is essential to understand all of the new abbreviations and terms to be best prepared for the first EV purchase. This is why one of my first posts is dedicated to an essential list of electric vehicle terms.

When I first started shopping for my first EV, I was quickly dismayed by all the different terms that were used to describe the car. Terms like “Regenerative Braking” or the difference between “Kilowatt” and “Kilowatt-hour” sent me looking all over the internet for an explanation.

With traditional gas cars, you could ask the car salesman/saleswomen basic vehicle questions. However, with EVs, most dealers ask these basic questions themselves as the technology is still fairly new.

If I wasn’t as persistent as I was, I could have easily walked away and bought a regular gas car like I used to. However, I was determined to “Go EV” and spent the time on the internet learning all the new jargon.

When thinking about what to write about my first few blog posts, it became quickly clear to me to write the very first challenge I faced when first-time shopping for an EV: learning the lingo.

Without further delay, below is a comprehensive list of common EV terms to help prospective EV buyers learn the lingo. 

Essential Electric Vehicle Terms:

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K| L | M| N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

A

Accepted Charge Rate: The maximum charge rate the vehicle will accept during a DCFC session. While the charging station may be rated at say 150 kW, a particular EV may have a charge rate ceiling of 100 kW. Therefore, the vehicle will only charge at a max of 100 kW despite the charging station capable of supplying more power than the vehicle can handle.

All-electric Range (AER): Another way of saying the maximum distance the vehicle can travel on electric power only. See also Range.

B

Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV): Also referred to as “all-electric”, a BEV is solely powered by an on-board, rechargeable battery. Common examples are Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model 3, and Chevy Bolt.

C

CCS Combo: The most ubiquitous DCFC plug in the U.S. with exception to the proprietary Tesla plug.

ChaDeMo: A DCFC plug found only in limited models such as the Nissan Leaf.

D

DC Fast Charging (DCFC): Also referred to as Level 3 charging, DCFC is the fastest charging available for EVs. Almost exclusively, this type of charging is available only for BEVs. DCFC are only found in commercial/public sites. Due to the high voltage, these chargers are about the size of a gas pump. DCFC charging results in 80-300 miles of range per 30 minutes (depending on the vehicle).

Electrify America DCFC Station
Image courtesy: ride.tech

Degradation: The decrease in battery capacity over time. As with other rechargeable batteries found in laptops or cell phones, the available capacity decreases over time as the battery cycle increases. Excessive DCFC, high ambient temperatures, and poor TMS will result in accelerated degradation. Expect roughly 1-2% decrease in range per year.

Tesla Model S/X Degradation
Image courtesy: Electrek

E

Electric Vehicle (EV): A vehicle propelled by electric power through an on-board battery. There are two varieties: BEV and PHEV.

Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE): Most commonly known as the “charger”. Technically speaking, the charging device is located on-board the vehicle, but it is acceptable to discuss the EVSE as the charger. Chargepoint Home Flex (image below) or Juicebox Pro are two popular examples.

Chargepoint Home Level 2 Charger
Image courtesy: Chargepoint

G

Gross Battery Capacity: The total battery capacity. Not all of the battery capacity is useable to power the vehicle. Often times manufacturers design the battery with a built-in buffer to help decrease the rate of degradation. Most occasions the manufacturer or journalist will list the gross battery capacity.

I

Internal Combustion Vehicle (ICE): Also commonly known as a “gas car”.

J

J1772: The standard Level 1 and 2 plug in the U.S.

J1772 Plug
Image courtesy: plugincars

K

Kilowatts (kW): Kilowatts are a unit of power, similar to horsepower. The more power, the more work that can be done.

Kilowatt-hour (kWh): Often confused with kW, kWh is a unit of energy. In EVs, kWh will refer to the energy capacity of the battery.

kW vs kWh
Image courtesy: Boilerguide

L

Level 1 Charging: Commonly referred to as “trickle charging”. Level 1 charging utilizes 120 volts as found throughout a typical home. Most EVs will come with a Level 1 charger. Level 1 charging results in 3-4 miles of range per hour.

Level 2 Charging: Most common EV charging. This utilizes 240/208 volts depending on residential or commercial applications. For a residential application, a separate EVSE and a dedicated 240-volt outlet will need to be purchased and installed to utilize Level 2 charging. Level 2 charging results in 20-40 miles of range per hour.

Level 3 Charging: See DC Fast Charging.

M

Miles Per Gallon Equivalent (MPGe): A metric to determine the efficiency of an EV compared to an ICE vehicle. Due to high efficiency, EVs typically get around 90-130 MPGe. In other words, an average EV is three times as efficient than an average ICE vehicle. To convert gallons to kWh, one gallon of gas equals 33.7 kWhs.

EV vs ICE MPGe
Image courtesy: explainthatstuff

N

Net Battery Capacity: The available battery capacity for powering the vehicle.

P

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV): PHEV uses both electric and gas. Typically, PHEVs have around 20-50 miles of electric range before the 300 miles of gas is available. Common examples are the Chevy Volt and Toyota Prius Prime.

R

Range: The distance the vehicle can travel before needing to recharge.

Range Anxiety: The fear of not having enough range to travel to a specific destination or charging station

Regenerative Braking (Regen): EVs are able to restore energy from deceleration into the battery rather than applying the friction brakes. This is known as regenerative braking, or regen for short.

S

State of Charge (SOC): The current percentage of available battery capacity. 

T

Thermal Management System (TMS): Thermal conditioning system to ensure good battery health throughout normal use. Manufacturers like Chevy, Tesla, Kia, and Hyundai provide robust TMS in their vehicles to properly keep the battery in a neutral temperature despite factors like outdoor temperature or DCFC habits.

Time of Use (TOU): A metering method for electricity by the utility provider where electricity rates depend on the time of use. Typically, late afternoons and evenings are more expensive, whereas all other times are cheaper.  

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