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Types of Electric Vehicles

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There are four types of electric vehicles, and while each has advantages and disadvantages, they all save on fuel and emit fewer greenhouse gas emissions than vehicles that burn fossil fuels only. They also 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.

Four Types of Electric Vehicles on the Road Today

  1. BEV - Battery Electric Vehicle
  2. PHEV – (Plug-In) Hybrid Electric Vehicle
  3. HEV – Hybrid Electric Vehicle
  4. FCEV – Fuel-cell Electric Vehicle
  5. 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. Electricity is stored in onboard batteries that are charged by plugging into the electricity grid. The batteries, in turn, provide power to one or more electric motors.
What you should know about BEVs:
  • The initial purchase price is higher than similar gas-powered vehicles.
  • You can save a lot of money on fuel and maintenance costs.
  • BEVs have driving ranges upwards of 500 km on a full charge, with most models capable of 200 - 250 km on a full charge.
  • Batteries can recharge overnight plugged into a regular household outlet (110 volts), or even faster using a residential electric vehicle charging station (240 volts).
  • Residential charging stations cost anywhere between $700 - $2,000 to buy with most falling in the $700-$1,000 range.
  • Residential charging stations have similar electrical requirements to a clothes dryer or stove and cost $500-$1,000 to install.
  • Fast charging stations, commonly referred to as DC Quick charging stations (400 Volts), will recharge a BEV from empty to 80% in 30-45 minutes. DC Quick charging stations enable inter-city travelling for BEVs and can be found along major highways and travel routes throughout Canada.

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)

A PHEV runs on battery and gasoline. PHEVS have rechargeable battery packs that provide 20-80km (depending on model) of all-electric driving before a gasoline engine or generator turns on for longer trips.
What you should know about PHEVs:
  • The MSRP of a PHEV is slightly higher than similar vehicles operating on internal combustion engines alone.
  • PHEVs have longer overall driving distances than BEVs and because they can operate using a gasoline engine or generator and can take advantage of the existing gas station infrastructure.
  • Because PHEVs deliver 20-80 km (depending on model) of all-electric driving, they are often cheaper to operate and maintain than traditional gasoline/diesel hybrids.

Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV)

A HEV has two complementary drive systems - a gasoline engine and fuel tank and an electric motor and battery. The gasoline engine and electric motor 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 electric energy comes entirely from regenerative braking and most of their driving is spent using gasoline.
What you should know about HEVs:
  • Because HEVs cycle in and out of electric mode, they are cheaper to operate than internal combustion engines.
  • HEVs are more similar to gas cars than to EVs as they do not require access to charging

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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