The EV dictionary: Words to know if you own an electric car

October 5, 2022
3 min
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Rolling with the EV (electric vehicle) crowd is a lot easier when you know the lingo.

We’ve put together this quick study guide to help you navigate the world of HEVs, PHEVs, and REXs. Instead of nodding along when someone throws out their fifth acronym you can’t figure out, you’ll be ready!

We’ll start with easy or more common terms and then work our way to the more complex — the ones to throw out to sound like you owned a first-generation Prius. Is our pronunciation guide official? No, but it will make sure you don’t embarrass yourself.

You’re welcome.

ICE [ice, as in ice cream] - Is an Internal Combustion Engine, a “regular” engine. ICEV stands for Internal Combustion Engine Vehicle, it’s what you may lovingly refer to as a gas-guzzler.

EV [ee-vee] — Electric Vehicle — this one’s easy. This is a term that includes all vehicles that use an electric motor either entirely or in combination with another power source.

Under the umbrella of EVs, there are different types. Here are some you’re likely to hear about.

BEV [bev] - Battery Electic Vehicle, It’s what most of us think of when we say EV — a 100% battery-powered vehicle.

HEV [aych-ee-vee] - Hybrid Electric Vehicle, or what we call Hybrids. These cars use both fuel and electricity.

PHEV [pee-hev] - Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle. These hybrids have a bigger battery that can be plugged into a wall socket to charge.

Range - How far you can get in your EV with a full charge. Like fuel in a fuel tank for regular cars, except in this case, it’s power from a battery. (Hot tip: don’t forget to calculate the distance back home or to the nearest charger!)

RPH [ - Range Per Hour, how much juice you’ll add to your battery in one hour of charging.

Range anxiety [&$!#%] - That “am I going to make it home?” worry you feel when your car battery is running low.

AC and DC - Unfortunately it’s not the awesome band.

AC - stands for Alternating Current, which revelrses directions at regular intervals. Alternating Current is like the power that comes from the power plant to your home. EVs can accept AC charging, but the AC power has to be converted to DC before it can actually feed the battery.

DC - stands for Direct Current. DC is electricity which flows in one direction, like power from a battery.

Type 1 plug = Level 1 charging - These AC type plugs have (lower) charging power levels of up to 7.4 kW (230 V, 32 A) — this speed also depends on your car’s charging power and your grid capacity. Type 1 plugs are more commonly used outside of Europe and can be recognized by their 5-pin design.

Type 2 plug = Level 2 charging - This 7-pin, AC type plug is used by most modern EVs across Europe. These plugs allow you to access three-phase power (if it’s available where you’re charging). Power rates may be between 22 kW and up to 43 kW — blowing Type 1 plugs out of the water, but it still that depends on the charging power of your car and your grid connection.

CCS - The Combined Charging System is the DC charger you’re most likely to find as public charing options in Europe. Think Tesla’s Supercharger. These run at 50kW and 100kW in many places, with some locations offering 350kW — that’s some serious juice for your electric ride.

You’ve made it this far, great!

Here’s the section where we try to translate what the electrical engineers said into human language.

Volts - Volts, or V, are effectively how fast electricity runs through a wire (sometimes it’s easier to think of electricity as water flowing through a pipe).

Amp - Amp is long for it’s symbol A and short for ampere. In this case, amps is how we measure the speed of the electricity flowing through.

Watt - Not short for anything; it is the surname of James Watt. It’s symbol is W. It’s a unit of power or how easily the water will go through the whole plumbing system.

volts x amps = watts

If you increase the water pressure (or the volts) more water (or electricity) will flow. The size of the pipe will limit the amount of water able to flow, so you increase the size of the pipes, which is like increasing the current or amps. More volts, more amps, more POWER!

kiloWatt - A kW is a thousand watts partying together. It’s also the most common measure of motor power in an EV. It’s how much power something uses or how fast it can transfer power to another place. That’s why you’ll see chargins stations and at-home wall boxes (read: chargers) measured in kWs.

kWh - Kilowatt-hours. This measures how much power you’ve used or how much capacity is in a battery. In non-EV language, it’s how you measure the size of you fuel tank.

Now that you’ve learned some of the most important terms in the electric car world, make sure to throw them out at unsuspecting friends at your next BBQ.

You can also use this incredible knowledge to better understand how we’re making sure EV ownership remains sustainable by building a smarter way to access electricity. Check out the smartest charging option on the EV market.

About us

We’re VOOL, an Estonian start-up bringing the maximum grid power to everyone. We’re a group of engineers, designers, and power enthusiasts (electrical, not the take over the world kind) making electrical access sustainable and equitable — starting with electric vehicle chargers.
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