Unpacking the different types of electric cars


Electric cars offer many benefits to both their owners and the environment! Driving an electric car emits 54% fewer carbon dioxide emissions per mile than the average new gasoline car. Moreover, the cost of ‘fueling’ an electric vehicle averages $1.20 per gallon, much less than the average cost of a gallon of regular gasoline ($2.21 in September 2020; see “egallon” calculator at energy.gov).

With more than 1.5 million electric cars currently operating in the United States, electric car sales are forecasted to surpass 3.5 million PER YEAR by 2030. The electric car movement is gaining speed!

Not all electric cars operate the same way. Four main types of electric cars exist on the roads today.

• Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) are the type of electric car that has been on the market the longest. HEVs include a small battery pack that is not charged by plugging in, but rather the batteries in hybrids are charged by the internal combustion engine and/or the braking process. HEVs function as battery-assisted vehicles and are not powered solely by batteries at any given time. Many modern HEVs are touted to make around 50 mpg for both city and highway.

• Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) (also known as EVs) do not rely on any gasoline to power the vehicle and have zero tailpipe emissions. EV operators simply plug their vehicles into their home electric grid or a public charging station to charge. BEVs also generate electricity from braking, similar to HEVs, and use this as a secondary energy source. Unfortunately, EVs are somewhat limited in how far they can drive on a single charge. Most EVs have all-electric ranges of 80 to 100 miles, while a few have ranges up to 250 miles.

• Plug-in Hybrid EVs run on both battery power and gasoline, and have much smaller battery packs than BEVs. The all-battery range in these vehicles is typically between five and 30 miles, and then the internal combustion engine is responsible for anything beyond that. Plug-in hybrids effectively reduce operator emissions for short trips around town; longer trips are powered by gasoline.

• Range Extender Hybrid EVs (REHs) function the same as plug-in hybrids, but have higher battery ranges due to design differences. Examples include the BMWi3 and the discontinued Chevrolet Volt. Some REHs drive more than 50 miles on a single charge. In addition to battery power, they also feature a traditional internal combustion engine, with some models making more than 40 miles per gallon once the battery is drained.

It is worth noting that EV battery ranges can vary depending on weather conditions; for example, cars have to work harder to run in colder temperatures; also, using the defrost or heat is more likely, decreasing range.

If you have questions about at-home charging systems or Crawfordsville Electric Light & Powers Public Charging Stations, please contact CEL&P at 765-362-1900. For more information about energy efficiency, as well as electrical safety, go to www.celp.com and SafeElectricity.org.


Crawfordsville Electric Light & Power contributes a column each month to the Journal Review.


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