Want to transition from an Internal Combustion Engine (e.g. gas-powered engine or ICE) to an electric vehicle? It can be difficult to understand the subtle differences between hybrid EVs and battery EVs, making shopping for a new car more daunting than ever before. Relax and follow our simple guide to find out which electric vehicle is right for you.
To better understand the types of electric vehicles let’s start with a breakdown of the standard operating functions and features of these different models, then review the merits of each.
HEV (Hybrid Electric Vehicle)
When you imagine powering an electric vehicle like a Toyota Prius, you probably picture plugging it in to charge. This is a common misconception about hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) because HEVs do not have a plug at all.
HEVs function on an internal combustion engine and an electric motor, which uses energy stored in batteries. The internal combustion engine runs on gasoline and the battery gets charged by the internal combustion engine and regenerative braking. During regenerative braking, the electric motor captures electric energy generated by the rotating wheels and stores it in the battery.
Although HEVs aren’t considered electric vehicles, they do certainly utilize electric power for smaller engines and many of the vehicle’s accessory functions such as lights and sound system, and when the vehicle is stopped it helps reduce engine idling. Some HEVs will drive a short distance, ¼ mile or so, on just electric if you’re light on the gas pedals!
Their ability to reduce engine exhaust allows HEVs to help the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. An added consumer benefit is lower fuel costs! If you’d like more technical details on the key features of hybrid electric vehicles, check out this resource from the U.S. Department of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy.
Related Article: When Is the Best Time to Charge Electric Vehicles?
PHEV (Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle)
If you’re new to the world of electric cars, you’re likely wondering- what’s the difference between a standard hybrid electric vehicle and a plug-in hybrid? It’s a fair question, and the answer is in the operating process.
An HEV gets its power simultaneously from a gasoline engine (the internal combustion engine) and an electric motor. The plug-in hybrid electric vehicle is programmed to run first and foremost on its electric motor and it only taps into the gas tank as a last resort when the battery runs out of power. This takes electric energy use to the next level.
Curious about how many miles this vehicle can last on battery? Typically, plug-in hybrid electric vehicle drivers get approximately 15-50 miles of electric range before the gas engine turns on. This feature makes the plug-in HEV a good transition to an electric vehicle for consumers because it helps limit the distance anxiety. No worrying about where or when you can charge up when your battery is running low.
Here are details on some of the key distinguishing parts of the plug-in HEV provided by the U.S. Alternative Fuels Data Center:
- Battery: Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles feature a larger and more advanced lithium-ion battery, typically about 4.4 kWh in size.
- Onboard charger: Takes the incoming AC electricity supplied via the charge port and converts it to DC power for charging the traction battery. It also communicates with the charging equipment and monitors battery characteristics such as voltage, current, temperature, and state of charge while charging the pack.
- Charge port: The charge port allows the vehicle to connect to an external power supply in order to charge the traction battery pack.
- Electric generator: Like the HEV model, this part generates electricity from the rotating wheels while braking, transferring that energy back to the traction battery pack. This allows for the collection of energy during regenerative braking.
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) typically feature a much larger rechargeable battery. A PHEV is designed to recharge by plugging into a wall outlet with external charging equipment, whereas the hybrid cannot. Similar to the HEV, this model also will recharge with regenerative braking.
You recharge by plugging them into either a standard 120-volt household outlet or a 240-volt charging unit. The charging plug equipment simply comes with the vehicle. Some states now have building codes that require 240-volt power to be installed in the garage of any new construction. Most people have a standard 120-volt outlet right in their garage, but you can also install a 240-volt unit yourself. Outdoor installation is also safe, and you can even charge in the rain.
According to the University of California Plug-In Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Research Center, on average, plug-in hybrid batteries can recharge in about three to 15 hours at 120V and one to four hrs at 240V. What about range? Depending on the make and model, plug-in hybrids can drive for 10-50 miles using only electricity before they start using gasoline.
Related Article: How Long Does It Take to Charge an Electric Vehicle Battery?
BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle)
Battery electric vehicles, also called all-electric vehicles, differ from HEV and plug-in HEVs in several major ways. First, BEVs are fully battery-powered vehicles. They do not contain an internal combustion engine at all and take no gasoline.
Battery electric vehicles include an electric motor (or two for all wheel drive vehicles) only in conjunction with a large lithium-ion battery. A large traction battery pack powers the electric motor and acts as a generator during coasting and braking to charge the battery and for vehicles with all-wheel drive there is typically an electric motor on each axle. BEV battery sizes range from approximately 28.9 kWh in a small model like the Mini Cooper SE, to roughly 200 kWh in a large vehicle like the Hummer EV pickup.
BEVs must be plugged into a wall outlet or other electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE), aka EV Charger, to be recharged. This fully electric vehicle has no gas tank, which means no backup alternative. If the battery dies while you’re on the road, you’ll need a tow home or to the nearest public charging station. However, the positive side of this is that BEVS do not contain the typical liquid fuel components and therefore emit no exhaust at all. This makes BEVs the ultimate eco-friendly vehicle!
Charging a BEV
Most of us know exactly how many miles we can get out of a full gas tank, so it makes sense that many prospective BEV customers want to know how far they can go on a fully charged battery. The answer is generally 100-400 miles per charge.
Now, there are multiple ways to obtain a fully charged battery, but the method and time it takes can vary greatly. There are three different levels of charging available for BEVs:
- Level 1 is the most common EV charging option because residential homes are already equipped with an outlet with the proper voltage and the BEV comes with simple charging equipment. It is easy and convenient for homeowners who have a reliable schedule and can charge their EV overnight. You can even save money by charging on off-peak hours. Find out how by reading “When Is the Best Time to Charge My Electric Vehicle?”
- Level 2 is becoming increasingly popular because it can charge BEVs three to seven times faster than Level 1 chargers. A standard Level 2 charger does require an additional equipment purchase and installation of a 240V charging station, but many consumers think the expense is worth the ability to charge up faster, providing more freedom and security. Businesses are also big fans of Level 2 charging stations such as the PowerCharge™ Pro Lightning and Energy Commercial Series provided by your BizReps team, which they install in a common space for their employees to access and charge while working.
- Level 3 charging stations are almost strictly for commercial vehicle use. They provide a super-fast charge for large batteries at a very high voltage. Level 3 charging stations are usually commercial or public and located along major travel corridors.
Which Electric Vehicle Is Better?
HEVs, plug-in HEVS, and BEVs all have their pros and cons, so the answer to this question ultimately depends on your needs. For example, you should consider:
How are you going to use your vehicle?
If you use your vehicle in a consistent and routine way each week such as driving around locally to school or work, a BEV could be perfect for you. There’d be plenty of time to charge it and if your mileage per day is really low you might not even need to recharge daily.
Are you a one-vehicle or multi-vehicle family?
Having multiple BEVs in one household would be tough. Trying to coordinate charging times could get confusing and put a strain on your utilities. Multi-vehicle families might consider selecting a combination of hybrid and BEV to balance their transportation needs.
How far do you want to travel on a regular basis?
If you travel a lot, the BEV may not be best for you right now. BEVs are limited in range by the size of their battery and how long it takes them to recharge. If you need to travel long distances on a regular basis a hybrid or plug-in hybrid is a better choice.
Ready to jump into the EV market? Contact our BizReps team today!