These vehicles might generally categorised by the extent to which they:
– use electricity, or petroleum based fuels, as their main energy source
– and motors (internal combustion vs electric motors), batteries, power systems and features (like plug in charging) they use to operate and run
In this guide, we identify and explain the different types of electric vehicles, and also hybrid vehicles.
Summary – Types Of Electric Vehicles, & Hybrid Vehicles
Electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles are different, but, hybrid vehicles essentially fit under the broad category of electric vehicles.
To illustrate this:
Electric vehicles generally include HEVs, PHEVs, BEVs/AEVs & FCEVs.
And, hybrid vehicles generally include HEVs, and PHEVs.
Hybrid vehicles get their name from their ability to use both petroleum based fuel and electricity for propulsion.
Because hybrids are able to use petroleum fuel, they may have greater driving range and other benefits in terms of performance that current all electric vehicles do not.
There’s two main types of hybrids:
– HEVs (hybrid electric vehicles)
Is not a full electric car because electricity is not the primary energy system – this types of car primarily runs on petroleum based fuel, and electricity is supplementary
Electricity might be generated from regenerative braking, but can also be generated via an electricity generator powered by the internal combustion motor in some models
Does not plug in to charge with electricity
– PHEVs (plug in hybrid electric vehicles)
Has similarities to a HEV
One of the major differences compared to a HEV is the ability of a PHEV to plug into an external power source to charge an electrical battery in the car
Electric vehicles all use electricity for propulsion, and do so in different proportions with petroleum based fuel.
Electric vehicles may all differ slightly too in how they generate electricity.
Electric vehicles include HEVs and PHEVs (because they both use electricity).
But, they also include two more types of electric vehicles:
– BEVs/AEVs (battery electric, or, all electric vehicles)
When most people think of electric cars, a BEV/AEV is what they think off
These vehicles are all electric – they only use electricity for propulsion and not petroleum based fuel
They have no conventional internal combustion engine, fuel tank or tailpipe
They plug into an external power source to charge an electric car battery
– FCEVs (fuel cell electric vehicles)
Are technically electric vehicles, but some people prefer to classify them as hydrogen fuel cell vehicles
They use fuel cells to generate electricity via an electrochemical reaction
They are a bit of a cross between a conventional car and an electric car in that they use electricity and have an electric motor, but they have fuel and range similar to a traditional car.
They can fill up with hydrogen at re-fill stations
Right now, hydrogen fuel in places like America are mainly made from fossil fuels like natural gas
Read more about hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in this guide
Different Parts & Systems In Electric & Hybrid Cars
Some of the main different parts and systems that can differ between different electric and hybrid vehicles can include:
– In what proportion electricity vs petroleum fuel is used. It could use mostly petroleum, or it could be an all electric vehicle
– When electricity is used, and when petroleum is used during the vehicle’s driving. For example, electricity might be used from start through to low loads and speeds, and petroleum for higher and heavier loads and speeds
– Whether the car has an internal combustion motor, along with a fuel tank and tail pipe system
– Whether the car has one or more electric motors
– How the car generates electricity – it could be via one of or a combination of regenerative braking, an internal combustion motor that spins an electricity generator, or via an electric battery that is charged with a plug in cable (electricity is obtained usually from the power grid, or an external power source like a solar panel setup)
– Miscellaneous features and levels of performance such as how the internal vehicle programming works (switching between fuel and electricity), and ratings for fuel economy, driving range, power, etc.
Other Considerations For Electric & Hybrid Vehicles
Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs)
Some of the key things features of a HEV are:
Not a full electric vehicle because the primary energy system isn’t electricity
Primarily runs on petroleum based fuel, and electricity is supplementary
Don’t plug in to charge
Has both a conventional internal combustion engine, and some type of electric power train or electric propulsion system (to charge an electric battery or directly power an electric motor)
The benefit of hybrids/HEVs is that the electric propulsion system is supposed to increase either fuel economy or vehicle performance (one example of this can be by cutting out the internal combustion engine when idling, and only using it when going at required speeds or RPMs)
Some HEVS use regenerative braking, and others use the internal combustion motor (that spins an electrical generator) to generate electricity, so, electricity generation systems can differ depending on the HEV model
Electricity is usually used for low loads and speeds (and short trips), and the internal combustion motor cuts in and is used for higher loads and speeds (and longer trips)
Has an internal computer to control the different motors and driving systems, and also to control things like driving economy
HEV examples are the Honda Civic Hybrid and Toyota Camry Hybrid
Read more about HEVs in the ergon.com.au, and wikipedia.org resources
Plug In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)
Some of the key features of a PHEV are:
Also known as Extended-Range Electric Vehicles (EREVs)
Has similarities to a HEV
However, PHEVs can generate or receive electricity through both regenerative braking, and also plugging in to an external power source to charge. This is really one of their key differences to a HEV – the ability to plug in to a power source to charge (which HEVs can’t do)
They also have the ability to create electricity when the internal combustion engine power an electrical generator (and this helps extend the car’s range). With these cars, the engine extends the range of the car by also recharging the battery as it gets low
Short range trips can be done purely on electric power
Two examples of PHEVS are The Toyota Prius which favours petroleum, while the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV favors electricity
Read more about PHEVs in the ergon.com.au, and wikipedia.org resources
Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs, or AEVs)
Some of the key features of a BEV/AEV are:
Known as battery electric, or all electric vehicles – because they fully use electricity as an energy source, and use an electric battery
They do not have an internal combustion engine like hybrid vehicles, and they also don’t have a fuel tank or exhaust pipe
They can plug into an external power source to charge the electric battery
They can also use regenerative braking
Examples are the BMW i3 and the Nissan Leaf
Read more in the ergon.com.au resource about all electric vehicles
You can also more about the types of electric vehicles, and some of their features and capabilities in the energy.gov resource
Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV)
Some of the key features of a FCEV are:
FCEVs are fuel cell electric vehicles
Although they technically do produce electricity via an electrochemical reaction from their fuel cell, they still need a fuel source to do this, such as hydrogen
A common example of a fuel cell electric vehicle is a Hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, whereby hydrogen combines with oxygen to produce electricity, water vapor and heat
Electricity powers an electric motor
So, FCEVs have this similarity to other electrical vehicles
But, unlike other EVs, an FCEV’s range and re-fueling processes are comparable to conventional cars and trucks
Read more about how fuel cell vehicles work in this guide