Electric vehicles have boomed in popularity these last ten years with most manufacturers each having a range of EVs to choose from, but what does all the terminology mean? What exactly is a self-charging car, how does it work and how is it different to an all-electric model? And what's all this about clean air zones?
EV (Electric Vehicle)
EV is short for electric vehicles, a kind of vehicle that is powered either fully or partially through electricity. There is a range of different kinds of electric vehicles, which we'll come onto below, however, the main point to note is that they use one or more electric motors as a means of propulsion, powered by a rechargeable battery.
The increase in popularity of electric vehicles can be attributed to two key factors: improvements in technology making electric vehicles cheaper, more attainable and with greater range than before, and a heightened focus on renewable energy.
BEV (Battery EV)
BEVs, or Battery Electric Vehicles, are vehicles completely powered by a rechargeable battery. This is typically what people refer to when they say 'electric vehicle', or 'all-electric'.
A BEV does not have any other form of energy source, except the battery, which means the ride is much quieter in these cars compared to traditional diesel or petrol engines.
The range of a BEV is between 100-300 miles on a single charge, which is plenty for covering regular errands and commuting.*
PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid EV)
PHEVs, or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, sit between a fully-electric vehicle and a traditional car, i.e. they are powered by a hybrid of electricity and traditional combustion (petrol or diesel). The car will be powered initially by the medium-sized battery and, once that energy has been used, the vehicle will then, automatically, use the petrol or diesel engine.
The range of the electric battery in PHEVs is lower than that in BEVs, because the battery is smaller, and can typically cover 20-50 miles before the traditional engine kicks in, meaning many shorter trips can be completed solely on electric power, before being recharged.
The plug-in element of the name highlights that this kind of electric vehicle can be electrically charged at a suitable charging station, refilling the battery. The petrol or diesel engine is replenished in the usual way, at a filling station.
HEV (Hybrid EV)
HEVs, or hybrid electric vehicles, are similar to PHEVs in that they comprise both electric and traditional means of propulsion, however, the electric motor is not charged by an external electric charging station.
Instead, hybrid electric vehicles are charged by the combustion engine. While running the vehicle as normal, when powered by the combustion engine, a generator produces electricity which is then stored in the batteries for later use. Because of this, HEVs are also known as self-charging hybrid cars.
The Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) in London is similar to the Clean Air Zones in other cities, designed to improve air quality by minimising the impact of vehicle emissions.
Find out more about ULEZ here.
Clean Air Zones (CAZ) have been set up in cities around the UK where they are trying to improve air quality.
These zones charge drivers of certain vehicles, based on the level of emissions produced by those vehicles, in a bid to minimise the number of high-polluting vehicles in these areas.
There are 4 classes of Clean Air Zone: A, B, C and D, with A being the most stringent and D being the most lax. Find out more here.
All-electric vehicles, as they produce zero emissions, are exempt from paying charges in these areas. Hybrid cars and ICE vehicles may have to pay, depending on their year of manufacture. You can check your vehicle here.
ICE (Internal Combustion Engine)
ICE stands for Internal Combustion Engine, which is the traditional form of propulsion used in many vehicles. Petrol or diesel is used to combust with an oxidiser in a combustion chamber, the force of which is used to convert chemical energy into kinetic energy, causing the vehicle to move.
FCEV (Fuel Cell EV)
FCEVs, or fuel cell electric vehicles, use compressed hydrogen gas and a fuel cell stack to transform the chemical energy into electrical energy. This energy then fuels the vehicle's electric motors and the only waste product created is water.
kWh refers to kilowatt-hours and is a means of measuring electrical energy. It is defined as "equivalent to a power consumption of one thousand watts for one hour".
The average electric car uses approximately 0.2 kWh/km and the larger the battery in an electric vehicle, the higher the range that car will be able to travel.
Batteries provide either part or all of the energy required to propel electric vehicles and current technology means EV batteries have a life period of around 8 years or 100,000 miles. There are four main kinds of batteries used in electric vehicles: lithium-ion, nickel-metal hydride, lead-acid and ultracapacitors.
The most popular type of battery in electric vehicles is lithium-ion, (also known as Li-Ion), due to its high power-to-weight ratio and low self-discharge rate. This means they can provide a lot of power with relatively low weight, meaning the vehicle can travel further, and they have a high ability to retain their own power over time.
Nickel-metal hydride batteries are typically used in hybrid electric vehicles and they have a better life cycle than Li-Ion and lead-acid batteries, although they are more expensive and have a higher self-discharge rate than other battery types.
Lead acid batteries are currently only used to provide additional power to electric vehicles, not the main power; this is in part due to their short life. They are high-powered, safe and inexpensive.
Similarly to lead-acid batteries, ultracapacitors are only used as secondary power sources, although they are not batteries in the way you might think. They contain an electrode and an electrolyte, between which polarised liquid is stored; as the surface area of the liquid expands, so does the capacity for energy storage.
Rapid charging, as the name suggests, means charging your electric car at a faster rate than the standard.
The standard rate is 3.6Kw and these standard charge points, or slow charging points, are usually found in homes and workplaces. They take about 8 hours to completely charge an electric car, so they're ideal for the working day or overnight charging.
Fast charging is also available and is a marked improvement over slow charging, but is still slower than rapid charging. Fast chargers are the most common charging connectors in the UK and most of these are rated at 7kW (charging an electric car in 4-6 hours), although some are also available at 22kW (charging an electric car in 1-2 hours).
Rapid charging points provide power between 43kW and 50kW, with the latter being the more common rapid charger. These charge points are typically found in motorway service stations and close to major roads and can charge a car to 80% in 20-60 minutes.
Ultra-rapid charging points deliver power at over 100kW and the number of ultra-rapid charging stations has increased from 1,290 in 2021 to 1,959 in 2022 (up to September). These ultra-rapid chargers allow you to reach 80% charge in 20-40 minutes.
The AQI, or Air Quality Index, is used to convey how polluted the air is at that time or is forecast to be. Pollutants from vehicle traffic have a major influence on an area's air quality.
In the UK, the DAQI (Daily Air Quality Index (DAQI) is the most commonly used index and is used and recommended by COMEAP (Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants). It is a 10-point system with 4 bands: 1-3 is low, 4-6 is moderate, 7-9 is high and 10 is very high.
In vehicles that are powered either partially or completely by an internal combustion engine, there will be waste emissions from the engine's by-products. These pollutants include carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur dioxide (SO2), hydrocarbons (HC), benzene (C6H6) and particulates.
The Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS) is a grant that can cover up to 75% of the costs of an at-home EV charger, including purchase and installation costs.
How can Carbase help?
As well as being exempt from paying Clean Air Zone and ULEZ charges, buying a used electric and hybrid car from Carbase gives you peace of mind, as all our cars are thoroughly tested and serviced in our Autocentres.
We are a RAC Approved Dealer which means that not only are all our used cars rigorously tested and repaired to ensure they are up to RAC standards, but we also share their ethos and high standards when it comes to quality, integrity and exceptional customer service.
More Useful Articles
Following COP26 and the UK Government's other green initiatives, electric car ownership has continued to grow over the ...
Charging points are individual devices that allow users to charge their electric vehicles and are also known as ...
Thanks to improved technologies, more charging stations, continued commitment to green decisions and ...