What Terms Should You be Familiar with When Shopping for an Electric Car?

Thinking about switching to an electric vehicle (EV)? Make sure you understand these important terms before you commit.


There are four main types of EVs. The first is the battery electric vehicle (BEV), which is the standard EV. BEVs run exclusively on electricity using a battery pack.

Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) have both a battery and an internal combustion engine. Unlike other EVs, HEV batteries are charged up solely by regenerative braking. They run primarily on the gas tank, relying on the battery as a back-up source of power.

Like HEVs, plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) also have both a gas tank and battery. PHEVs predominantly use the battery, which has to be plugged in to charge (like BEVs). If the battery runs out, a PHEV will continue to run on the gas tank.

Finally, fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) run on pure hydrogen gas from a fuel cell. Instead of being plugged in, FCEVs need to be filled with hydrogen. This is the least common form of EV, so it can be difficult to find fuelling stations.

Charging Levels

Three levels of EV charging apply to BEVs and PHEVs. The higher the level, the faster the charging process.

At Level 1, EV owners can charge their vehicle using a generic 120-V outlet in their household. Any EV is capable of Level 1 charging. It’s the slowest method of charging, adding about eight kilometres of range per hour. Starting from empty, it can take upwards of 25 hours to fully charge an EV using this level.

Level 2 charging adds around 30 km of range per hour with a 240-V outlet. In about eight hours, your EV can be fully powered up with Level 2 charging. This is the most common method of EV charging. It’s available at most public charging stations, but you can also access Level 2 charging at home if you have easy access to a powerful enough outlet, such as those used for an electric dryer, oven, or water heater. So you’ll need to be able to access one from your garage. You can also get a Level 2 charger installed in your home with the help of an electrician.

Lastly, there’s Level 3 charging. This is commonly referred to as DC Fast Charging, or, if you drive a Tesla, Supercharging. Fast charging adds between five and 32 km of range per minute, getting you to 80% capacity in about 30 minutes. Because of the high voltage needed at this level, fast charging is only available at certain charging stations and isn’t practical for home use.

Depending on the battery size, not all EVs are compatible with fast charging. It’s most useful for those who don’t have the time or ability to charge their vehicle at home. The downside, however, is that frequent Level 3 charging can reduce an EV’s battery life a lot faster. It’s best to only use this level as a last resort, not on a regular basis.

Extended Range

A common concern with EVs is that they’ll run out of power in the middle of a journey. You can use a few different techniques to help combat range anxiety, and many current EV designs are making use of new features to further extend their range.

To completely avoid this fear, some people opt for an extended-range electric vehicle (E-REV). This is an alternative term for a PHEV, which runs on both electricity and gas to extend your range. Driving a car with a gas tank can also make it easier to fuel up if you drive in more remote areas.

Other Useful Topics

If you decide to become an EV owner, there are some other topics you should look into. These include winter maintenance, fuel efficiency, and how to find charging stations.

You can also look into online forums and local societies that are full of EV owners and experts who can provide you with more knowledge and advice for picking your first EV.