4 Types of Plug-In Vehicles Explained

As plug-in vehicles get more popular, manufacturers are continually striving for the latest and greatest technology, which means things change pretty fast, and sometimes it’s hard to keep up! Get ready for a raft of acronyms as we look at four different types of plug-in vehicle currently on the market.

Battery Electric Vehicle [BEV]

When you talk about electric vehicles (EVs), it’s most likely you’re talking about a BEV.

Unlike a petrol or diesel car, they have no engine; the power comes from a battery – or group of batteries – located somewhere in the car.

Battery Electric Vehicles really are the cars of the future, and while many people may have been concerned about how far they could go between charges, many BEVs can now travel hundreds of miles on a single charge.

The batteries used in a BEV are rechargeable, of course, and guarantee zero-emission motoring every mile you drive!


Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle [PHEV]

Many see PHEVs as the perfect half-way house between a fully-electric vehicle, and the more conventional fuel-powered car.

A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle certainly has an advantage or two over a BEV – you can add fuel at a petrol station to extend the range of your car, for example – but what you don’t get is guilt-free, zero-emission motoring.

PHEVs combine a small- to medium-sized battery with a small- to medium-sized engine, meaning they can operate in both fully-electric and hybrid modes. It might seem like they’re hedging their bets, but it’s nice to have options, right?


Self-Charging Hybrid

A self-charging hybrid is similar to a PHEV – it pairs a small battery with a petrol or diesel engine – but the key difference is that a self-charging hybrid doesn’t have a charging inlet.

In other words, you can’t charge the battery on a self-charging hybrid from an external power source, only from the car’s internal engine.

The other key difference is that the battery is particularly small, and can typically only provide a mile or two of purely electric power. Instead, the battery helps when moving at low speeds, or to improve efficiency when accelerating.

Example: Lexus CT Hybrid

Extended Range Electric Vehicle [E-REV]

Whereas a self-charging hybrid is a vehicle with a normal engine and a small battery, an extended range electric vehicle is a vehicle with a normal battery and a small engine.

In fact, the engine used in an E-REV vehicle doesn’t drive the wheels at all. Instead, it’s attached to a small fuel tank, and is used only for charging the battery.

Having a small engine – also known as a ‘range extender’ – means that you can stop at a petrol station if you need some extra range from the battery, but in practice, the amount of extra range isn’t huge, so you’ll be stopping often if you’re going on a really long journey.

Example: BMW i3 Range Extender

If you’re thinking about buying a plug-in vehicle but don’t know where to start, check out our guide to choosing a hybrid/electric car that suits your lifestyle.

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