Electricity can be used as an alternative to conventional gasoline by fully or partially powering a vehicle and can be produced through various energy sources such as oil, coal, nuclear, and renewables.There are three main types of electric vehicles: All-Electric (EVs or BEVs), Plug-in Hybrid (PHEVs), and Hybrid (HEVs).
HEVs are powered by an internal combustion engine and an electric motor. The electric motor gets most of its energy from regenerative braking, where the vehicle retains the energy normally lost from braking and stores it in a battery. Hybrid vehicles are not ever plugged in to charge. These type of vehicles offer a more environmentally focused driving experience while maintaining a driving distance comparable to that of an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle.
PHEVs are similar to HEVs except they have an additional feature that allows the driver to charge the battery through an external power source. This allows the vehicle to store more electrical energy.
EVs are fully electric. Unlike HEVs and PHEVs, they do not have an internal combustion engine on board. All-electric vehicles can fill the battery through both regenerative braking and an outside electric power source. The batteries are often larger so the vehicle can travel further on a single charge.
Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) is the equipment used to charge plug-in electric vehicles. The electricity is stored in the battery onboard and then used to power the vehicle. Currently, there are three types of EVSE: Level 1, Level 2, and DC Fast Charging.
Level 1 charging uses alternating current, and the charger plugs into a standard 120 V outlet. They typically supply a vehicle with 2-5 miles of range per hour of charging, so they are usually found in residential or workplace settings where the vehicle won’t be used for awhile. Most, if not all, EVs will come with an AC Level 1 cord-set.
Level 2 provides slightly more power than Level 1, supplying a vehicle with 10-20 miles of range per hour of charging. Level 2 chargers are also usually placed at residential or workplace settings, and are often used as public charging stations. Unlike Level 1, these chargers cannot plug into a normal 120 V outlet and require special installation. EV buyers do not usually receive a Level 2 charger with the purchase of the vehicle, but most drivers opt to invest in one because it provides a lot more vehicle range in a short amount of time.
DC Fast Charging is the most efficient EVSE. Utilizing direct current, the equipment provides a vehicle with 50-70 miles of range in less than 20 minutes. These stations enable rapid charging in heavy traffic corridors.
There are over 40 models of light-, medium-, and heavy-duty hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), and all-electric vehicles (EVs) available from a variety of automakers. It is also possible to convert conventional vehicles to run on electricity. Most all-electric vehicles have about 80 to 100 miles of range, but many automakers have been developing models that can travel farther. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, 80 miles of range is sufficient for 90% of all household vehicle trips in the United States. If this range is not sufficient, a plug-in hybrid vehicle may be a better choice because they can run on gasoline when the battery’s charge runs down.
Electric vehicles offer a safe, inexpensive, and environmentally friendly driving experience. Like most alternative fuels, electricity can be produced domestically, which reduces our reliance on foreign oil and increases energy security. Electric vehicles offer a better fuel economy and lower fuel cost than similar conventional vehicles due to the high efficiency of electric drive components. The electric components also reduce many maintenance costs because they have fewer moving parts and fluids to change. Lastly, EVs are easy to fill up. Since the electric grid is in close proximity to most locations where people park, PEVs can charge overnight at a residence, as well as at a fleet facility, workplace, or public charging station when available.
Vehicles running on electricity produce zero tailpipe emissions, but there are still upstream emissions associated with the production of energy, so these vehicles are not completely net zero. Electric vehicles typically have a lower range on a single fill and longer fill times than similar conventional gas vehicles. While electric vehicles have lower fuel costs than conventional vehicles, the purchasing price for them can be significantly higher. Fortunately, this expense can somewhat be offset by federal and state incentives, cheaper fuel, and lower maintenance costs, and is likely to decrease as production volumes increase. In the meantime, there are many online resources that can aid in estimating electric vehicle costs for a fleet.
Alternative Fuels Data Center further explains the production, distribution, incentives, and technology involved with electric vehicles
Electric Drive Transportation Association is the trade association promoting battery, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fuel cell electric drive technologies and infrastructure.
Sierra Club Electric Vehicle Guide identifies and describes plug-in electric vehicles based on fleet or individual requirements
Electric Vehicle Transportation Center is a research and education effort to help create the nation’s electric-vehicle transportation network
Drive Electric Florida is a group of stakeholders that support the adoption of plug-in electric vehicles in Florida