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The industry of electric cars in 2020 has been growing with new electric car manufacturers entering the market and established auto manufacturers expanding into fully electrified cars, hybrid cars, or hybrid plug in vehicles.
Electric vehicles (EVs) are broken down into three main types namely, BEVs or battery electric vehicles, PHEVs, or plug in hybrid electric vehicles and HEVs or hybrid electric vehicles. These 3 categories are classified by the different power supply for each car. The battery electric car has a single electrical supply from an on-board battery whereas the hybrid car has dual energy supplies which differ slightly from one another.
They are classed by the degree that electricity is utilized as their primary energy source.
There are a myriad of electric and hybrid electric car brands available today. Manufacturer brands for electric cars include Tesla, the electric car Kia Soul, and the Volkswagen e-Up. Hybrid plug in car brands include the Mini Cooper Countryman S E All4, Kia Niro plug in hybrid and the Ioniq Hyundai plug in hybrid model. A well-known hybrid car is the Toyota Prius, which was the first mass produced hybrid car launched in Japan in 1997.
BEVs – BATTERY ELECTRIC VEHICLE
The term Battery Electric Vehicle describes cars that are fully powered by electric motors that draw power from a high-performance battery cell. This is in contrast to Plug in Hybrid cars (PHEV) and Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV) where the power is derived from a combination of an internal combustion engine and battery power. With BEVs, the on-board battery cell is the only source of power for the engine.
A BEV does not have a diesel or petrol engine to assist and therefore there is no back-up if the battery runs flat. This is why the electric cars charging stations are built across states and countries to improve the infrastructure for providing power to EVs.
A BEV is essentially a 100% pure electric car, which has been brought to the fore by Tesla that is fast becoming the most popular electric car manufacturer with its Tesla Model S, 3, X, and Y. Tesla has other electric cars upcoming such as the Roadster, Semi, and Cybertruck.
The Nitty Gritty
The only power source for a BEV is the rechargeable battery, they are not assisted with any additional power option and the only way to charge a battery for electric cars is through an electric car home charger like Tesla’s Powerwall or at a commercial electric car charging station. These vehicles store electricity on-board in high-capacity battery packs, which in turn provide power to all the electronics and the electric motors that are used to power the vehicle. As BEVs are charged by electricity from an external source, there are three different levels of speed available to recharge electric cars.
These are detailed below:
Level 1 charging would be commonly used with standard household 120v outlet ideal for overnight electric car home charging or throughout the day while at work. This will take an excess of 8 hours to charge and give the vehicle a traveling distance of around 75 - 80 miles. Most electric cars on the market will have this level of charging available as it is the most common source of electricity supply.
Level 2 charging requires a specific electric car charging station that needs a power supply of 240v. These electricity specifications are normally found at the workplace or at a public electric car charging station. To get the same traveling distance of between 75 – 80 miles as you would get with the level 1, charging now takes approximately 4 hours, so it is substantially quicker to get the same traveling distance.
Level 3, as it was originally called, but now referred to as DC fast charging or fast charging, is the fastest charging solution currently for the electric vehicle market. These charges are found at dedicated EV charging stations and take approximately 90 minutes to get a range of around 90 miles, however there are exceptions to the rule where some of Tesla’s models can travel more than 200 miles on a single 90-minute DC charge.
While driving a BEV there are no CO2 emissions, however, this is not entirely true as there are CO2 emissions produced by the electricity supply grid sending power to charging stations to replenish the BEV’s battery along with the actual manufacturing of the batteries themselves. However, studies have shown that in comparison to an internal combustion engine, a BEV indirectly emits 50% - 51% less CO2. This includes the emissions created by recharging the batteries from the grid.
As battery technology continues to improve, the electric car range will extend further and further offering more opportunities for drivers to opt for electric cars giving the longest range. As modern pressures require an extended driving distance, this puts pressure on the battery manufacturers to continuously research more efficient ways of storing battery power. This also includes the time taken to recharge batteries. The secret to EV batteries is oversize, this means that the battery is never pushed to its maximum and always operates at the mid-range of usage by giving “grace capacity” at either end of the power spectrum, thus reducing stress to the battery. Most electric vehicles have a battery of 8 years and 100 000 miles.
PHEVs - PLUG IN HYBRID ELECTRIC VEHICLES
The Plug In Hybrid car definition refers to an electric vehicle that uses a combination of two power sources, which are an electric motor (battery powered) along with a standard petrol or diesel internal combustion engine. Examples of these vehicles are the Ford Fusion, the Volvo XC90 plug in hybrid, Audi A3 E-Tron and the hybrid car Hyundai Sonata.
The process of recharging the batteries on the PHEV is currently obtained via several alternate options as opposed to the BEV which can only get its charge from an electricity supply. A PHEV battery on the other hand has the option of regenerative charging where the battery is recharged through a braking process, which uses the resistance of the wheels to recharge the battery along with the option of plugging in to an electric car home charger or fast charging DC service station.
The Nitty Gritty
A PHEV or hybrid plug in as it is commonly known, is similar to the conventional hybrid car in which they use a combination of battery power along with an internal combustion motor either in conjunction with one another or independently. The PHEV battery can be fully recharged by a standard household electrical plug point or via a commercial electric car charging station. A PHEV can travel for approximately 30 miles on the battery alone after which the internal combustion engine will take over. People who would consider purchasing a PHEV generally are wanting to move away from the internal combustion engine but are not entirely comfortable with a full conversion to electric cars. This is because they may feel that the charging restrictions for BEVs are not as flexible as they are for internal combustion engines and possibly have not quite accepted the move over to BEVs yet.
How this hybrid car works is that is uses regenerative braking, which is the ability for the vehicle to recharge its batteries via the braking system. This happens by slowing down the vehicle by converting kinetic energy into a form that can be stored in the battery or immediately used if needed. This can be used when the PHEV is in the internal combustion engine mode and the braking process is continuously recharging the on-board batteries. The batteries from a PHEV differ from that of the HEV where they have the ability to discharge continuously giving a single “battery only” ride that can be recharged fully, whereas the true HEV uses its battery in short bursts of power only.
Short trips are ideal for PHEVs as they can travel on 100% battery power, however, should they require that longer distances to be covered, the internal combustion engine can be used solely as the power source and filled normally at regular filling stations.
The hybrid car has pros and cons. The downside of the PHEV is that they need to be plugged in and charged every night and if this is not done, the benefit of the battery is not fully utilized. The plug in electric car vs gas is still more fuel efficient and economic. The Toyota Prius offers the longest range plug in hybrid that will achieve around 650 miles with the internal combustion engine only and around 1000 miles with a fully charged battery on a full tank.
CO2 emissions on PHEV are the same as a standard internal combustion engine, however, the emissions are drastically reduced if the car is used for short distances when the battery is the only power source.
HEV - HYBRID ELECTRIC VEHICLES
Finally, we have the HEV (Hybrid Electric Vehicle) which is almost the same as the PHEV but with a few differences. To explain the hybrid car meaning, it is defined as a combination of an internal combustion engine as well as a small electric motor to power the vehicle. A few examples of this are the hybrid car Honda Civic and the hybrid car Toyota Camry.
The presence of a battery in a HEV is intended to achieve a better fuel economy and vehicle performance. The best example of HEV efficiency is the Toyota Prius which achieved 50 -60 mpg better than any car using an internal combustion engine.
The main objective of a HEV is to conserve fuel without compromising performance. This can be achieved by using several electric motors to assist the internal combustion engine during acceleration and slow-moving traffic.
The Nitty Gritty
The conventional hybrid car like the Toyota Prius, utilizes a combination of an internal combustion engine propulsion system along with a small electric motor propulsion system. The combination of the two power sources is controlled by an on-board computer that will determine when each power source will be used. Depending on the type of HEV, the electric motor will kick in to assist the internal combustion engine or run purely on battery power at lower speeds, offering the best possible fuel efficiency.
The HEV has a standard mechanical powertrain with a crankshaft and clutch, which resembles an internal combustion engine along with small electric motors in the wheels that act as the drive chain or braking options, sometimes known as a parallel configuration. When the brakes are applied, the electric motor runs in reverse and acts as a generator which charges the batteries.
The HEV does not have a plug in option to recharge the on-board battery. The battery for the electric car is recharged as an on-board process called regenerative braking where the electric motors slow down the vehicle which uses some of the energy usually converted to heat by the breaks. This is different to the PHEV where the batteries can be recharged via an electricity supply. The HEV relies solely on regenerative braking and the charging capacity of the internal combustion engine to supply the batteries with power.
HEV batteries are designed to operate differently to BEVs and PHEVs as they utilize their energy in short power bursts for acceleration and slower driving conditions rather than a long continuous discharge of energy used by BEVs. A HEV battery will rarely drop below 20% charge and still function normally. Lithium-Ion batteries are used in electric cars from Nissan which provide twice the power of a standard battery cell. Unlike mobile phone battery cells, hybrid car batteries have the ability to emit and store large amounts of energy while the car is accelerating or decelerating. For this reason durability is a vital requirement for a HEV battery.
HEV batteries are very similar to a standard car starter motor battery which can operate efficiently at less than 50% of its charge and is continuously being recharged via the car's regenerative braking system. These batteries are robust and are generally guaranteed for around 8 years of usage.
While driving an HEV, the driver will generally hear the petrol or diesel engine running most of the time, while in a PHEV, the driver will usually not hear the engine except on longer distances when the internal combustion engine takes over once the battery has run out of power. Drivers of HEV are generally concerned with the environment and fuel consumption. They may also not be well suited to having access to reliable electric car chargers, so they prefer the option of not having to worry about recharging the vehicle.
The immediate torque derived from hybrid electric vehicles is evident with high performance vehicles like McLaren P1 and Ferrari LaFerrari who utilize the hybrid electric engines to boost acceleration and improve performance.
While the electric car price is on average more than petrol-powered vehicles, it is possible to get your hands on electric cars that are used / preowned. For new models, there are electric car lease deals to help owners with financial affordability.
And as more people convert to electric cars, we will see an exponential growth in this industry and more incentives will drive consumers in this direction through electric cars tax credits and policies like electric car rebates being offered in California.