Types of Electric Vehicles explained

Electrification has made cars more complex. In the past everything was straighter to the point: in most cases, it was either gasoline or diesel. And that was it. Now it can be diesel or gasoline engines but the probability of having an electric motor is getting higher every month. In some cases, it does have an elector motor but no internal combustion engine.

A bit confused? Don’t be. In this article, we’re going over the different types of electric vehicles.

If you prefer a more visual option which might be easier and faster to understand, here’s another option:

FREE BONUS: Check out our Type of Vehicles Infographic. Click here and follow the instructions.

Internal Combustion Engine vehicles (ICE) or Fossil cars

To make things easier I’ll refer to fossil or ICE vehicles when talking about conventional cars. Most of these vehicles use gasoline, diesel, bio-diesel, ethanol, CNG and LPG.

Until the middle of the 90s, these included virtually all cars on sale.

You had a gasoline or diesel engine and there was no electric motor assisting.

From all of the types we’ll be covering in this article, this is probably the one most people understand well.


Types of Electric Vehicles explained

With the ICE vehicles out of the way, we’re now diving into electrified vehicles.

The following vehicles all have electric motors and batteries. But there are some differences between each of them.

Let’s find out how.

Hybrid electric vehicle (HEV)

You start with an ICE car – usually, one that runs on gasoline – and add a small battery on the trunk. You also place a modest electric motor between the gasoline engine and the gearbox.

If you aren’t sure if you know a hybrid, the most known hybrid is the Toyota Prius.

When accelerating, the gasoline engine won’t work as hard as before because the electric motor will be helping out.

You also have improvements in fuel economy and exhaust emissions.

Sometimes they’re called self-charging vehicles because they don’t have a charging plug. Batteries in hybrid cars are recharged by regenerative braking and by the ICE itself.

The electric technology might move the car but only in very restricted circumstances and for very short distances; it’s not meant to move the car but to reduce fuel consumption and emissions.

Many car manufacturers are now using this technology to meet emission targets.

As a downside, the added components need some space, and it’s not rare to see that hybrid versions will have less available trunk space than non-hybrid versions.

And remember that these components are now a lot smaller and more capable than they were 10 or 20 years ago.

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Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)

How do we get to plug-in hybrids?

As you probably guessed, you get a hybrid car and you go a step further.

Batteries now have more capacity and motors have more performance.

Bear in mind that technology has evolved. PHEV sales really started growing strong after 2011.

Unlike hybrids, the plugin hybrids allow you to recharge the battery from a domestic socket or a charging station.

Stepping up the electric technology means that these cars can now go into EV mode for 50 km or more. And numbers keep increasing.

That means that some drivers can do their daily commuting and errands without consuming a drop of fuel.

And when the battery level goes low, no worries. You still have an internal combustion engine and a fuel tank. That allows you to go on long trips like you would on a conventional ICE car.

Performance is also improved because not only do you have two motors, but the electric motor here is much more powerful than those found in hybrid cars. The batteries also have much larger capacity.


There are some downfalls, though; bigger batteries take more space and have to be placed somewhere. Usually, that translates into less trunk space.

You have to keep moving the car and they make the vehicle more expensive and heavier. This added weight will reflect on tire wear, performance, and fuel consumption.

Even if you barely use the ICE, it still needs the usual maintenance of an ICE car.

Im’ talking about the likes of engine oil and its filter, the fuel filter, timing belts, and all those other components.

I usually say something about PHEVs. Want to know what is that?

Well, here it is…

It’s the best of both worlds…

…but also the worst of both worlds.

EREV or REEV (Range-extended electric vehicle or extended-range electric vehicle)

Range-extended vehicles are in many ways similar to plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

With some differences.

The electric motor moves the car but the battery is relatively small.

If you don’t charge it and the SOC is low, the gasoline engine will fire. But… it won’t turn the wheels.

Actually, it will work as a generator and feed the car’s battery. That energy is then used to power the electric motor. This is how the wheels are put into motion.

It’s not unusual to have limited performance when your SOC is low and you rely on the ICE to recharge the battery.

The Chevrolet Volt (or Opel Ampera) and the Fisker Karma are REEV. So is the BMW i3 if it’s it has the optional range extender ICE.

BEV (Battery Electric Vehicles)

Last but not least, and my favorite vehicles… Battery electric vehicles.

These are the so-called electric vehicles or 100% electric vehicles. These are the ones we will be concentrating on from now on.

Unlike previous types of vehicles, these do not have ICEs. They don’t use gasoline or diesel.

With these ones, you can’t refuel at the good old conventional fuel pumps.

They run only on electricity and they have one or more charging ports.

As you would expect they have a battery pack, sometimes much larger than those in PHEVs.

And they have at least one electric motor.

Because they don’t use conventional ICE, these cars can be built very differently from the ground up.

The efficiency of EVs is off the charts compared to internal combustion cars.

Range and charging evolution

Over a decade ago EVs were seen as short-range cars. The charging infrastructure was very insufficient.

Nowadays you can do a long road trip on an EV.

They have much more range. Charging speeds grew considerably. The charging network is now more mature and keeps on developing.

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Conclusion on the Types of Electric Vehicles

In little over two decades electrification really gained traction in the market and not it started becoming odd for a car not to have an electric motor and battery.

That evolution spawned a few different types of EVs and it’s easy to get confused about them.

I hope this article made it all clear.

And click the link above to get the infographic, it gets even easier to understand.