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7 electric car terms you need to know

7 electric car terms you need to know

The automotive world is turned upside down by the attacking electric vehicles is now on the market. Internal combustion cars and trucks have been around for 120 years; they are old school and well understood. But the arrival of electric vehicles and their new technologies has spawned a whole new class of automotive jargon. We want you to speak it fluently. We’re here to help with this mini-glossary of seven EV technical terms. Master them and you’ll look smart – and be smart – about these new battery-powered vehicles.

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Engine power

In North America, many automakers quote horsepower for electric motors, as they do for internal combustion engines; however, motor power is also often expressed in kilowatts. One kilowatt equals 1.34 horsepower. So if you see an EV motor rated in kW, add a third to that number and you’ll know its power almost exactly.

e mobility, electric vehicle with battery

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Battery capacity

The battery that powers an electric vehicle contains energy, which is measured in kilowatt hours. If this unit looks familiar, it’s probably because it’s the same unit your utility provider uses to bill you for your home’s electricity usage. For reference, a gallon of gasoline contains 33.7 kWh of energy.

Battery capacity in kWh is the time in hours that a battery can produce power in kilowatts. For example, smaller electric vehicles with a range of around 200 miles often have batteries of around 60 kWh. This means they can deliver 30 kW (or around 40 horsepower) for two hours straight. That might not sound like a lot, but EVs traveling at a constant speed typically only require a fraction of that power, and some of the energy used to accelerate the vehicle and overcome aerodynamic drag and road loading. can be recovered through regenerative braking. The are two battery capacity variations you may encounter: we quote “usable” capacity, the amount the car can actually draw on, while some car manufacturers quote full or “raw” capacity, which includes buffers that prevent the battery from fully discharging to zero.

use electricity to travel

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Home charging

Today, the vast majority of miles traveled by electric cars come from batteries charged at home or at work. There are two types of home charging. The first, called Level 1, uses a standard 120-volt wall outlet; the second, called Level 2, uses a more powerful 240-volt circuit similar to that required to run an electric range or clothes dryer.

Owners who need to charge more than 30 or 40 miles of range each day should install dedicated Level 2 charging equipment with its own charging cord in or on their garage. Level 2 systems typically charge EV batteries about six to almost 20 times faster than a Level 1 hook-up, depending on the circuit output and what the car can handle. Drivers driving less than 30 miles per day can use a 120-volt outlet and the 120-volt portable charging cord that comes with the car. Some manufacturers now offer charging cords with interchangeable pigtails that allow them to charge from 120 and 240 volt outlets. Finally, public charging stations, the type you might encounter in a parking lot or mall parking lot, operated by networks such as ChargePoint, charge primarily at Level 2.

electric charging progress bar, electric vehicle or phone battery indicator showing increasing battery charge battery indicator shows it is filling up to 50

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DC fast charge

While level 1 or 2 charging uses alternating current (AC) from a building’s electrical wiring, the fastest type of charging is known as DC fast charging. It’s not something you would install in your home; it is intended to support electric vehicles for long-distance travel and is usually found at freeway charging stations or near major intersections.

Also note that fast charging is usually most productive between about 5-80% battery state of charge because, like your cell phone, the charging rate slows down when the battery is nearly full, and extracting the last 20% takes relatively much longer. .

businessman standing near electric car or electric car charging and using tablet on the street

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The taxes

the speed at which an EV can recharge is also measured in kilowatts. AC charging (level 1 and level 2) ranges from approximately 1.0 to 19.2 kW, depending on how much power the car’s on-board electronics can accept and what the charging hardware can supply. DC fast charging rates vary even more, from a now obsolete standard of 24 kW to the fastest offered for passenger cars, which can reach 350 kW. The actual rate at which an electric vehicle charges always depends on the remaining battery power, battery temperature and other factors.

The moral of the story is to know what rate your EV can take and match it to a suitable charging station via the car’s navigation system, if possible, or the various apps for route planning and leasing. location of the charging station. These include Plugshare, Chargeway, A Better Route Planner and others.


Car and driver


Miles Per Gallon Equivalent, or MPGe, is a measure of the distance a vehicle can travel on the energy contained in one gallon of gasoline. This is the electric vehicle efficiency measure cited by the EPA, intended to provide a comparison to how the agency rates the fuel efficiency of fossil-fuel cars in mpg. The mpg number appears on the window sticker and in Car and driver specification tables.

In practice, however, the most important EV metric for EV drivers is interval: Can my car get me there and back on a single charge, given weather and speed conditions? When EV owners discuss the “efficiency” of EVs, they actually tend to mean consumption – the rate of energy used while driving the vehicle – which is usually expressed in watt-hours per mile (Wh/ mi) or its inverse miles per kilowatt-hour (mi/kWh). True efficiency, which is EPA MPGe figures, also includes load losses and the inevitable battery drain that occurs when the vehicle is parked. For a fuller explanation of this topic, read our explanation here.

two-way charging

Car and driver

Two-way charging

Also called “power out” or “vehicle to load” (V2L), two-way charging is shaping up to be another selling point for electric vehicles, one that most gas-powered vehicles cannot offer. It’s the ability to export electricity from their batteries through 120-volt or 240-volt outlets built into the car. The output power is usually 1.9 to 9.6 kW.

These outlets can be used to power anything from portable refrigerators or boomboxes at outdoor events to power tools used onsite by construction crews. In this use, the electric vehicle replaces a noisy gasoline generator spitting out exhaust gases. They can also be used to charge a failed EV.

Some electric vehicles can be used as backup generators to power homes in the event of a power outage, after adding appropriate hardware to the house wiring. This capability was first demonstrated in March 2011, after the tsunami in Japan and nuclear disaster, when electric vehicles were used to power medical equipment in field hospitals.

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