How Many Types of Electric Cars Are There?

Apr 21, 2023


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From Tesla to Chevy, myriad electric vehicles (EVs) are on the market from numerous makers. Drivers can have a sedan or SUV, and commercial fleets will be mostly electrified in the next decade. Widespread EV adoption is fast approaching, but many need more education on the types of electric cars available to make an informed purchase. 

Legislative incentives are causing prospective EV owners to have more prominent urgency, as tax credits abound for eligible vehicles. Experts expect the market to value over $1318 billion by 2028, highlighting consumer and governmental priorities. Not all EVs are the same, so it’s time to pick apart how the four most common types of electric cars make sense for different drivers.

What Are Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs)?

BEVs, sometimes called all-electric vehicles (AEVs), are what most think of when they have an image of an EV — these cars are zero emissions. The electric motor requires as-needed charging, with different models offering varying distances, averaging from 150 to 400 miles. The mileage of the vehicle ranges depending on the battery instead of how many miles a gallon of gasoline nets the driver. Advancements in BEVs make them travel long distances with improved efficiency as makers strive to meet demand while attempting to convert skeptical buyers. Some of the most famous examples include:

  • Tesla Model Y
  • Hyundai Kona Electric
  • Kia e-Niro
  • Renault Zoe
  • Nissan Leaf

Charging station accessibility varies from city to city, and station installation is inconsistent because of costs and grid capability. BEVs need an efficient grid to support mass amounts of BEVs charging simultaneously, making it one of the most notable drawbacks until infrastructure catches up. It will happen eventually, but experts argue the timetable. 

The environmental advantages are indisputable, as they can’t emit harmful air pollutants because they omit the need for gasoline. However, almost every BEV has a lithium-ion battery that is heavy and hard to recycle, demonstrating strides the industry still needs to make to reach an environmental ideal. 

What Are Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs)?

HEVs were a necessary step in the EV storyline, because they can ease people’s anxieties when transitioning — especially since they cost less on average compared to a BEV with an inarguable improvement to fuel economy. These are some models that are making an impact:

  • Honda NSX
  • Toyota Yaris and Prius Hybrid
  • Ford Mondeo Hybrid

They’re not as eco-friendly, but an intermediary vehicle had to enter the scene to catalyze an industrial shift and a worldwide mindset change. Though gas-powered, they have an electric motor yet do not charge from external sources like BEVs. 

The primary innovation of HEVs was the introduction of regenerative braking. Gas-powered cars waste energy every time a driver presses the brakes, and HEV manufacturers saw an opportunity to flip this wasteful side effect on its head. Whenever HEV drivers hit the brakes, power cycles back into the engine that would otherwise be lost as residual heat. It could save brake pads and rotors because it puts less stress on the parts, saving drivers money on replacements.

What Are Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs)?

Green hydrogen is one of the most significant up-and-coming technologies in vehicle manufacturing as EV makers scramble to combat the negative press associated with lithium-ion batteries, among other motivators. The U.S. is offering incentives for FCEVs alongside BEVs in the nation’s initiative to promote EV adoption, ranging from $2,500 to $7,500 in tax credits. The Toyota Mirai and Hyundai Nexo are the most well-known.

These cells transform hydrogen into gas for fuel. Recharging isn’t necessary with these cars because the car performs the hydrogen conversion process and stores reserves in the tank. Like BEVs, they release no tailpipe emissions, because the byproducts of the electrochemical reactions are only vapor and hot air. 

Hydrogen fuel cells in cars would work nicely alongside BEVs for a greener future, though experts are reluctant to say they would discontinue or heavily compete against electric motors. There are efficiency concerns, especially when more investments and research expedite BEV progress faster than FCEVs.

Hydrogen fuel cells might feel like a vast leap from ICE vehicles, but drivers can rest assured many of the maintenance highlights drivers are used to remain the same in many EVs.

What Are Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)?

Many EV skeptics go back and forth on committing because they worry about distance and charging accessibility. PHEVs satisfy those concerns as BEVs continue to improve. PHEVs have an internal combustion engine (ICE) that supplements a sizeable, rechargeable electric motor. Here are some of the notable PHEVs on the market:

  • BMW 330e
  • Mitsubishi Outlander
  • Toyota Prius
  • Chrysler Pacifica

Most of the time, its energy extends the electric motor’s life. Despite this, it can power the car itself when its battery inevitably runs out of charge because makers didn’t design it for longer distances. It’s smaller than standard ICEs, still making it a greener alternative to a traditional gas-guzzling vehicle.

Utility factor (UF) often details PHEV efficiency, which describes charge depletion against total distance and carbon emissions. The term can describe other types of electric cars because it also considers travel habits and rechargeability.

Depending on the make and model, landscape and other driving conditions, PHEVs waste less energy than regular ICEs, potentially decreasing fuel consumption by up to 47% by depleting the electric battery before relying on gasoline. The main drawback behind PHEVs, as with most EVs, is charging. It needs a strong grid like the rest, but many PHEVs cannot charge quickly.

Why Do We Need More Than One Type of EV?

Numerous factors account for what drivers would want in EVs. It could come down to price or state availability, but education on the types of electric cars will make buyers wiser when arriving at the car lot. Managing expectations is vital, as speeding and intense AC use also contribute to battery depletion — just like ICEs. Just because they have different engines doesn’t mean every operational aspect improves.

Not every EV is solely electric, which might surprise buyers wanting that eco-friendly experience. Making the knowledge more common will help EV understanding, increasing the rate drivers switch to hybrid or all-electric vehicles. 

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Jack Shaw is a senior writer at Modded. Jack is an avid enthusiast for keeping up with personal health and enjoying nature. He has over five years of experience writing in the men's lifestyle niche, and has written extensively on topics of fitness, exploring the outdoors and men's interests. His writings have been featured in SportsEd TV, Love Inc., and Offroad Xtreme among many more publications.