Different types of EV

Few people worry about the mechanics under the bonnet of their petrol or diesel vehicle and we don’t think you should feel like you need to become an engineer to understand the newer technology in the different types of electric car now available either. The auto manufacturers making electric cars include Audi, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen. These leading vehicle manufacturers are applying the same quality and rigour to their electric models as their petrol and diesel vehicles.

Zero emission 100% electric

100% electric vehicles, otherwise known as “battery electric vehicles” or “pure electric vehicles”, are wholly driven by an electric motor, powered by a battery that can be plugged into the mains. There is no combustion engine. When the vehicle is slowing down, the motor is put into reverse to slow the vehicle down, acting as a mini-generator to top-up the battery. Known as “regenerative braking”, this can add 10 miles or more to the range of the vehicle. As 100% electric vehicles rely entirely on electricity for fuel, they do not produce any tailpipe emissions. At present, most of these vehicles on the market typically offer a range of around 100 miles, though many offer more. 100% electric vehicles have been around for over 100 years. The technology is as straightforward as it is mature, with the number of moving parts a fraction of what goes into conventionally-fuelled vehicles. That means much greater energy efficiency and less to go wrong. 100% electric vehicles are characterised by their smoothness. They usually only need a single gear, giving very even acceleration and deceleration for a smooth ride. With an electric motor, full power is available from the first instance, making these vehicles really nippy. There is also no engine noise. 100% electric vehicles can be charged directly from a normal socket. But to speed up recharging times there are a host of charging options available at public and residential locations.

Better for the environment

Pure electric cars have no tailpipe emissions; in fact, they don't even have an exhaust. Plug-in hybrids have significantly lower average emissions than traditional petrol or diesel cars too. This can help improve air quality, particularly in urban areas and at the roadside where air quality can be worst. Even when taking into account the impact of generating the electricity used (the 'well-to-wheel' emissions), pure electric cars can still produce substantially lower greenhouse gases than petrol or diesel cars. These emissions will be reduced further as the countries of the world switch to more renewable and nuclear electricity generation. Over their whole lifecycle, electric cars have lower greenhouse gas emissions than ICE vehicles. Battery manufacture can be than offset by increased efficiency and emissions savings over the life of the car.

Plug-in hybrids

The battery is much smaller than in a 100% electric vehicle and tends to drive the wheels at low speeds or for limited range. However, it is still sufficient in most models to cover well beyond the majority of the average trip lengths for UK drivers. After the battery range has been utilised, the hybrid capability means that the vehicle can continue journeys powered by its conventional engine. The use of an internal combustion engine means that plug-in hybrid vehicles tend to have tailpipe emissions of around 40-75g/km CO2 when measured against the current European test cycle. The key difference between a plug-in hybrid vehicle and conventional ‘mild’ hybrid vehicles is the “plug-in” bit. The battery in a plug-in hybrid is bigger, can be charged directly and allows the vehicle to have a zero emission range.

Extended-range electric vehicles (E-REV)

Extended-range electric vehicles have a plug-in battery pack and electric motor, as well as an internal combustion engine. The difference from a plug-in hybrid is that the electric motor always drives the wheels, with the internal combustion engine acting as a generator to recharge the battery when it is depleted. Range extenders can have pure electric range of up to 125 miles. This typically results in tailpipe emissions of less than 20g/km CO2. Throughout this Website, we refer to ‘electric cars’, ‘electric vehicles’ and ‘plug-in cars’. The terms are all interchangeable descriptions of the vehicles set out above. Generally, we use ‘vehicles’ to refer to both cars and vans.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, also known as Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs), are another type of electric car and have a fuel cell stack which uses hydrogen to produce electricity which then powers the wheels of the vehicle. There is no internal combustion engine in a FCEV. The fuel cell is an electrochemical device similar to a battery, but unlike a battery it does not need recharging and will continue to generate power as long as it is fed with a supply of hydrogen. Fuel cells produce electricity and heat with just water produced at the tailpipe. Unlike battery-powered vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are refuelled at a filling station in a similar way to vehicles with a petrol or diesel engine. The FCEVs on the market have a range of around 300 miles. They take just three to five minutes to refuel and an initial network of 12 hydrogen filling stations is being developed across in the UK to support their roll out.

Service and maintenance

Pure electric cars are in many ways a lot simpler than our conventional petrol or diesel cars. Which can make electric car servicing easier and maintenance costs less likely; helping to keep costs (and hassle) to a minimum.

Let’s keep things simple

To ensure they run smoothly and reliably, our trusty petrol and diesel cars require a number of parts. Exhausts; catalytic converters; starter motors, spark plugs, oil, cooling systems; engine dampers; fuel injection systems; fuel pumps… the list goes on. Pure electric cars, on the other hand, have only three main components: the electric motor; the on-board charger and the inverter. This is one of the main reasons electric cars and vans can cost less to service and need less maintenance. When you next service your current car, spare a moment to look at what you’re paying for: new engine oil and filter, replacement spark plugs; air filters; perhaps new engine coolant? A pure electric car doesn’t need any of these. Electric motors themselves have proved to be very robust, and can require very little maintenance.