Busting the Jargon of Oil & Electric Vehicles

With the growth of electric vehicles there’s a much more diverse mix of engines on the road. Waracle’s CTO, Mike Wharton, demystifies the confusing acronyms as he explains the spectrum from oil to electric.

Oil to Electricity

ICE – Internal Combustion Engines

For the last hundred years cars have been powered almost exclusively by Internal Combustion Engines, these are engines that burn (combust) stuff internally to produce an explosive force that can be used to drive a car forward. Their main characteristics are that they are inefficient, complicated and noisey.

HEV – Hybrid Electric Vehicle

Hybrids use an ICE to power the car, and a small electric motor to regenerate energy when braking back into a small battery pack. The electric system adds torque and helps propel the car when accelerating from low speeds taking some load off the engine when it’s at its least efficient. This type of car was successfully pioneered by Toyota in the Prius. Mild (or 48v) Hybrids are a cheaper even less powerful version that uses an upgraded starter motor.

PHEV – Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle

Plug-in Hybrids tend to have a larger battery and more powerful motors than normal hybrids, as well as a charging port. They can usually travel around 30-40 miles on electric power alone before the petrol engine takes over. PHEVs have additional cost and weight over normal hybrids but through normal commuter use rarely use the ICE. Electric performance drops heavily in winter as lack of battery thermal management reduces capacity and need for cabin heat requires running the engine.

REX EV – Range Extended Electric Vehicle

A REX EV is essentially an electric car that has an onboard petrol generator that can kick in to recharge the batteries and power the vehicle when the charge is low. Unlike in a PHEV the combustion engine is not mechanically connected to the wheels. While an interesting solution to extend the range of electric vehicles, the vehicle platform has to be designed from scratch as an EV with further added complexity of housing the engine. Very few cars have a range extender. The BMW i3 ReX is one example.

BEV – Battery Electric Vehicle

BEV is the industry term for a 100% battery electric vehicle. A BEV has no engine, no petrol tank and is powered solely from the large battery pack. Due to battery pack costs these tend to be more expensive than other models. Depending on the car, these can be either an EV version of an existing model or developed from the ground-up to be an Electric only model in the manufacturer’s lineup.


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