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Types of Electric Vehicles

There are four types of electric vehicles, and while each has advantages and disadvantages, they all save on fuel and emit fewer greenhouse gases than vehicles that burn fuel only. They also all recharge their batteries through regenerative braking. In this process, the vehicle’s electric motor assists in slowing the vehicle and recovers some of the energy normally converted to heat by the brakes.

Three Types of Electric Vehicles On the Road Today

  1. BEV - Battery Electric Vehicle
  2. PHEV and HEVs – (Plug-In) Hybrid Electric Vehicle
  3. FCEV – Fuel-cell Electric Vehicle
  4. Each type of electric vehicle can be found in Canada. Find examples of each here, with links to their commercial websites.

Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV)

A BEV runs entirely on a battery and electric drive train, without an internal combustion engine. It is powered by electricity from an external source, usually the public power grid. This electricity is stored in onboard batteries that turn the vehicle’s wheels using one or more electric motors.
What you should know about BEVs:
  • The initial purchase price is significantly higher than similar gas-powered vehicles, even with government incentives, if offered in your province.
  • Demand for BEVs should result in lower purchase prices in future.
  • You can save a lot of money on fuel and maintenance costs.
  • They have a range between 100 and 160 km, compared with 500 km for most conventional cars, but for most consumers, that range is well within their current commute range.
  • Batteries can recharge overnight plugged into a regular household outlet of 120 volts, or even faster using a 240 volt outlet, similar to the type of outlet used for domestic clothes dryers.
  • Installing a 240V outlet for your BEV costs approximately $200-$400.
  • Many BEV owners purchase a charging station for their home, which ranges in price from $600-$1200.
  • 400V rapid charging stations are now available in many locations, where BEVs equipped with a CHAdeMO or COMBO connector can be 80% charged in under 30 minutes.

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)

A PHEV runs mostly on a battery that is recharged by plugging into the power grid. It is also equipped with an internal combustion engine, running on gasoline or diesel fuel, that can recharge the battery and/or to replace the electric drive train when the battery is low and more power is required.
What you should know about PHEVs:
  • The original purchase price is comparable to similar vehicles operating on internal combustion alone.
  • PHEVs have an advantage over BEVs because consumers are already comfortable with gas- or diesel-fuelled vehicles.
  • PHEVs offer readily-available fuel for long distance driving and have a significantly increased range compared to BEVs.
  • Because PHEVs can be recharged on the public network, as opposed to HEVs (covered next), they are often cheaper to run than HEVs, though the amount of savings depends on the distance driven on the electric motor alone.
  • If the distance traveled before recharging is always less than the vehicle’s range in electric-only mode, the car never has to be refuelled with conventional fuel.
  • Autonomy of a PHEV can vary between 10 and 35 km in electric mode.
  • Since PHEV batteries are smaller than BEV batteries, charging time is less.

Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV)

An HEV has two complementary drive systems - a gasoline engine and fuel tank, and an electric motor, battery and controls. The engine and the motor can simultaneously turn the transmission, which powers the wheels. Where the HEV differs from the above two types of electric vehicles (BEV and PHEV) is that HEVs cannot be recharged from the power grid. Their energy comes entirely from gasoline and regenerative braking.
What you should know about HEVs:
  • The original purchase price is comparable to similar vehicles operating on internal combustion alone.
  • HEVs have an advantage over BEVs because consumers are already comfortable with gas- or diesel-fuelled vehicles.
  • HEVs offer readily-available fuel for long distance driving and have a significantly increased range compared to BEVs.
  • As soon as the driver accelerates moderately, running entirely on the electric motor lasts rarely more than 5-10 km.
  • Typically, the electric motor can also function as a generator, driven by the engine, to help recharge the batteries when electric power is not needed for driving the vehicle.
  • They are more expensive to run than PHEVs, because they cannot be recharged on the public network.

Fuel-cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV)

A FCEV creates electricity from hydrogen and oxygen, instead of storing and releasing energy like a battery. Because of these vehicles’ efficiency and water-only emissions, some experts consider these cars to be the best electric vehicles, even though they are still in development phases and provide many challenges.
What you should know about FCEVs:
  • Purchase price is high because the cost of a fuel cell is several times more expensive than the cost of an internal combustion engine.
  • Extracting hydrogen from a water molecule is an energy-intensive process that generates greenhouse gas emissions if renewable energies are not used.
  • FCEVs are expected to be widespread on the market in the next few years.
  • Since February 12, 2015, the fuel-cell Tucson has been for sale in the Vancouver area, making Hyundai the first original equipment manufacturer to market a fuel-cell vehicle.
  • The Toyota Mirai was slated to follow suit, but was stalled due to lack of infrastructure.
  • The transportation and infrastructure required to bring this fuel to stations is a challenge. There are only two hydrogen fuel stations in Canada.
For more information on all available engine technologies, please see CAA’s e-book Gas, Hybrid and Electric: All You Need To Know

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