Learn about Electric Vehicles

Find answers to your questions about Electric Vehicles:

There are three major types of electrified vehicles ("EVs") found on roadways today, which utilize electricity either as their primary or secondary fuel source.

Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs)

Electric Vehicles (EVs) or as they are sometimes referred to, “BEVs” (Battery Electric Vehicles) utilize electricity as their primary fuel source.  EVs store their electrical energy in a large battery that can then be used to power an electric motor or motors.  Charging an EV is like charging a cell phone –  you plug it into an electrical source to refuel.  EVs, like hybrids and PHEVs, also utilize regenerative braking.  Unlike a conventionally fueled vehicle, BEVs can be fueled up at home, work, or on the road, offering more convenience and choice to consumers.  Since EVs have larger batteries, they can travel all-electric for further distances than plug-in hybrids.  The typical EV can travel at least 100 miles, which is more than sufficient for 90% of all household vehicle trips in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration.

Today’s EVs are traveling further and becoming increasingly more affordable.  Many qualify for a federal tax credit and state incentives (note: Rhode Island’s DRIVE rebate program has been discontinued).  In addition to incentives, EVs are cheaper to own and operate long term than conventionally-fueled vehicles. EVs require little to maintenance when compared to their gasoline counterparts.  Unlike conventional vehicles, EVs require no oil changes; fewer brake replacements (due to their regenerative brakes); less fluid changes, and in general have far fewer moving parts. 

Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)

Plug-In hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) use electricity to improve upon the efficiency of conventionally-fueled vehicles. PHEVs use batteries, often larger than what is found in a hybrid vehicle, in coordination with conventional fuels, to power an electric motor in the vehicle that in turn propels the vehicle forward. PHEVs can be plugged into wall outlets and Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) to charge their batteries. PHEVs also utilize regenerative braking to help aide recharging and increase efficiency.

In addition to the electric motor, PHEVs use conventional internal combustion engines to extend their range of travel. When the battery runs out, PHEVs switch seamlessly over to gasoline or other conventional fuel. PHEVs offer reduced emissions when compared to conventional gasoline or hybrid vehicles. All-electric ranges for PHEVs vary from 10 miles to 50 miles or more.

Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs)

Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) are primarily powered by an internal combustion engine, (gasoline, diesel, or alternative fuel) in conjunction with an electric motor. The electric motor sources its power from a small onboard battery. The battery is recharged through the process of regenerative braking. Regenerative braking captures the energy normally wasted from braking into electricity and then stores it in the onboard battery. This energy can then be used to power the vehicle short distances at low speeds.

For more information on electric vehicles, visit the Alternative Fuel Data Center at www.afdc.energy.gov.

Electric Vehicle FAQ's

+ What is a battery-electric vehicle (BEV)?

A battery-electric vehicle (BEV) is any vehicle that derives its entire power source from electricity via a power outlet. Electricity is routed to an on-board battery pack, which is then sent to an electric motor that powers the vehicle forward.

+ What is a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), and how does it differ from an EV?

A plug-in hybrid (PHEV) is a vehicle which derives the first portion of its power from electricity via a small on board battery charged by a power outlet, and then later relies on a gasoline engine. This allows electric driving for shorter distances (approximately 10 – 50 miles), with a seamless transition to gasoline for longer distance travel.

+ What is the typical range of an electric vehicle?

EV range varies by make and model. Typically, you can expect between 80 – 250+ miles of range. The average daily commute is about 40 miles, meaning that even shorter range EVs can meet daily driving demands.

+ How long does it take to charge an electric vehicle?

Charging time can vary significantly depending on the vehicle type and battery capacity of the EV. Generally, the larger the battery, the longer it can take to charge, just like a cell phone or other battery-powered devices. There are three charging levels: Level I, Level II, and DC Fast Charging. Level I can add 2 – 5 miles of charge per 1 hour of charging; Level II can add between 10 – 20 miles per hour of charge; and DC Fast Charging can add 60 – 80+ miles of range per hour of charging. For more information on charging infrastructure, visit the U.S. Department of Energy's Alternative Fuel Data Center website.