6 Types of Electric Vehicles Explained

Electric vehicles are seen more often now than ever before. Electric vehicles’ charging ports can be seen along highways and near shopping centers. Understanding the difference between all of the electric vehicles available can aid in your decision if this is the next type of vehicle you want to purchase.

Read on to learn about the different types of electric vehicles and the makes and models for each type. You’ll also learn about other terms that are often associated with electric vehicles, even though they may technically not be fully electric.

Different Types of Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicles come in many different types and sizes. Some versions of electric vehicles will be all electric and need to be charged, while other versions of electric cars will be hybrids containing gas engines as well.

Electric Vehicle (EV) and Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV)

Electric vehicles (EV) and battery electric vehicles (BEV) are the same. This is one of the main types of electric vehicles available because this type of car runs purely off rechargeable batteries and does not run off a gasoline engine at all.

An EV/BEV will have to be plugged in to charge. This can be done at home or at a charging station. While the car is charging, the electricity will be pulled directly from the grid. EV/BEV-type cars will come with a Level 1 charger. However, purchasing a Level 2 charger for your EV/BEV will help you out in the long run. Level 1 charging will use a regular wall outlet, but the charging speed will be slower. A Level 2 charge can be done with a wall outlet, but a higher voltage outlet will be needed.

Many charging stations found outside your home will have Level 2 charging ports or Level 3 charging ports. Knowing ahead of time which type of charger your EV/BEV needs will help you find the right type of charging station. There are many apps available that can help you find charging stations while you are out and about.

A lot of the time, charging stations can be found around busier areas, such as malls, grocery stores, and along highways. Keeping your car fully charged throughout the day can make commuting easier and, if charging during the day comes up, there are many available options. Examples of EV/BEV type cars include:

  • Tesla Model 3 Long Range
  • Chevrolet Bolt EV
  • Hyundai Kona Electric
  • Nissan LEAF S
  • BMW i3

These cars will have differences amongst them because different brands will offer different options with their vehicles. However, all these cars are only electric.

Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV)

A NEV, while like an electric vehicle, is not capable of running the same way. NEVS are battery operated and do need to be charged. The charging time will be shorter than a regular electric vehicle charge, though. NEVs are allowed on roads, and you do need a driver’s license to drive one. However, the maximum speed of a NEV is 25 mph.

This type of vehicle will seat people in groups of two, making it both narrower and longer than an average car. NEVs are great for quick trips around town or around neighborhoods with limited parking. NEVs can be driven on roads with posted speed limit signs of 35 mph or less. More and more cities are beginning to develop lanes and/or paths for NEVs to be used more often.

Some examples of NEVs include:

  • Global Electric Motorcar (GEM)
  • E-Z-Go’s 2Five EV
  • Chrysler’s Peapod Eco-mobility NEV

As more and more people become familiar with NEVs, the easier they will be to find. NEVs can also be referred to as low-speed vehicles that are regulated for road use. Some versions of NEVs will come with doors, but many don’t, giving it a similar drive to a jeep in the summer.

Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) and Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle (HFCV)

The names FCEV and HFCV are usually used interchangeably. This type of vehicle does have a battery and an electric motor but will not have a charging port and does not need to be connected to the grid to charge. This vehicle will also have a hydrogen tank and will need to be filled up with hydrogen instead of gasoline.

  1. Once entering the vehicle, the hydrogen will stay in the hydrogen tank until the vehicle starts moving.
  2. Once the vehicle is moving, the chemical moves from the tank to the fuel cell.
  3. The fuel cell then converts the hydrogen to electricity.
  4. The fuel cell will then split the electricity between the battery and the engine.
  5. The electric motor is what keeps the car moving.

The battery located in this vehicle is used to store energy for when the car needs it. The main reason why the FCEV does not need a charging port is because of the fuel cell. A few examples of FCEVs are:

  • Hyundai Nexo
  • Honda Clarity Hydrogen Fuel Cell
  • Toyota Mirai

Not many FCEVs are available today. More hydrogen refueling stations will need to be made available before this type of vehicle is seen on the roads more often.

Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)

A PHEV car will use both electricity and gasoline to power the vehicle. This type of car will come with both a charge port for connecting to a charging station and a gas tank to fuel the internal combustion engine (ICE).

The charging port available for a PHEV will be the same as that of an EV/BEV. Different charging ports will be needed based on the charging level you prefer. The gasoline pump available for this car will be the same as that of a car that only requires gasoline. Since the PHEV can charge pulling electricity from the grid, the battery provided in the car will be larger.

Most of the time, the engine will rely on gasoline once the electricity coming from the battery has been used up. Electricity in the car can be saved with regenerative breaking as well. Regenerative braking is when the vehicle decelerates slowly, saving energy for your car and, in turn, saving gasoline. Regenerative braking alone will not be enough to keep the batteries charged in a PHEV, which is why the car will still need to be plugged into a charging station.

A few examples of PHEV vehicles include:

  • Kia Niro PHEV
  • Toyota Prius Prime
  • BMW 530e
  • Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid (PHEV)
  • Jeep Wrangler 4xe

Even though all these cars are PHEV vehicles, the name will not necessarily state that the car is a PHEV. Some research into the car itself that you are interested in will let you know if the car is a PHEV. Another way to check would be to look at the car and see if it has both a charging port and gas tank.

Deciding on getting a PHEV will let you have a similar driving experience to a regular car that takes gasoline while still getting a taste of what an EV feels like. If you can keep your PHEV fully charged, you may not ever have to use gasoline. Keeping some gasoline in the vehicle will be helpful in case you end up in a position where a destination is not as close to a charging station.

Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV)

An HEV is both electric and gasoline-powered, but more so gasoline-powered. An HEV will not have a charge port located on the car, only a gas tank. Charge ports are not available on HEVs because these types of electric vehicles do not plug into the grid to recharge.

Charging an HEV comes from within the car itself. The electric motor in an HEV helps the gas engine and sometimes takes over and powers the vehicle by itself. Regenerative braking and the internal combustion engine are how the battery inside this electric vehicle charges. The HEV will still have batteries installed with the motorized engine.

Some examples of an HEV include:

  • Toyota Prius
  • Nissan Altima
  • Ford Fusion
  • Kia Optima Hybrid
  • Volkswagen Jetta

The price of an HEV is going to be higher because this vehicle is a hybrid. Additionally, you will still be paying for gasoline on top of the main price. However, by not having a charge port in the car, you will not have to worry about running out of an electrical charge or having to stop along your trip to recharge your vehicle.

Extended-Range Electric Vehicles (E-REV)

The E-REV has both an electric motor powered by a battery and a smaller internal combustion engine. However, in this car, the internal combustion engine is used to power the electric battery in the vehicle.

This type of vehicle will run purely on electricity until the battery level gets too low. When the battery level hits a certain percentage, the engine will kick in and power a generator located inside the car. As the generator makes energy, the energy from the generator goes to the electric motor to keep the vehicle moving.

The engine being able to power the battery in this vehicle is why the extended range was added to the name. Essentially, an E-REV is functionally the same as an EV but with the ability to go for an extra (extended) amount of time. This type of vehicle would work out well for road trips or long commutes where charging stations might not be available as often.

Examples of E-REVs include:

  • BMW i3
  • BMW i8

The Chevrolet Volt and Vauxhall Ampera are examples as well, but these two vehicles are no longer in production. Since the E-REV runs on more electricity than gasoline, it will have to be charged either at home or at a charging station.

What Do the Other Labels in the Electric Vehicle World Mean?

California currently has firm air quality standards when it comes to new cars being sold now and in the future. Clean air states are trying to get to a point where zero-emission vehicles are widely sold to help the air quality become safer. The types of cars listed below all fall into these new standards for vehicles one way or another. They can apply to any of the above categories depending on their specifications.

Zero-Emission Vehicles (ZEV)

ZEV currently is more of an action plan that has been put in place for car manufacturers. The types of vehicles that currently fall into the ZEV description are:

  • Full battery electric
  • Hydrogen fuel cell
  • Plug-in hybrid electric

Both full battery electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles can run the majority, if not all, of their time off electricity. The hydrogen fuel cell vehicles convert hydrogen to electricity. In the end, these vehicles run on little to no gasoline or diesel, allowing them to fit into the long-term ZEV plan. The ZEV action plan has been put in place to help further the tailpipe regulations that will eventually be needed to limit emissions from cars that produce too much smog.

In the state of California, car manufacturers have to make a certain number of ZEV vehicles per year. By subjecting the car manufacturers to this plan, California should reach its regulation needs on time.

Many of the vehicles listed above can be placed in the ZEV category, which is why knowing and understanding what ZEV means is important. ZEV vehicles can be found all across the United States but will mostly be found in and around California.

Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (PZEV)

PZEV was introduced shortly after ZEVs were introduced as a solution for car manufacturers to begin the process of making Zero-Emission Vehicles. PZEVs are being produced from regular vehicles that use gasoline as their fuel rather than electricity or hydrogen.

PZEVs are easier and quicker to make because the vehicle itself does not have to be changed at all. The internal combustion engine is kept in place as it is. The additions made to already-made gas-powered vehicles are being made to the fueling system of the cars themselves.

  • Fuel system liners are layered to stop gas vapors from leaking out of the car and into the air.
  • Carbon air intake traps are added to stop any added vapors that might try to escape after turning your car off.
  • A third catalytic converter is added to clean any leftover emissions escaping from the vehicle that can cause smog.

By being able to make these minor changes to the interior of these vehicles, the gas vapors that leave regular gasoline-powered vehicles are being slowed down to make the cars cleaner for the environment.

When Electric Vehicles are produced with the same standards as PZEVs, the term Advanced Technology PZEV (AT-PZEV) can also be used. Advanced Technology is added to the name because the fuel efficiency of electric vehicles is already better than regular gasoline-powered vehicles.


LEV, ULEV, and SULEV are all abbreviations for tiers leading up to California’s zero-emission vehicles. These types of vehicles can be regularly powered with gasoline, or they can be hybrids as well.

LEV (Low Emissions Vehicle)

LEVs are the lowest acceptable emissions tier for new vehicles manufactured in California. The LEV will produce low levels of CO2 on emission tests. Examples of LEVs can include:

  • Ford Fiesta
  • Audi A1
  • Ford Focus

Many of the LEVs are not electric vehicles and will have regular combustible engines in them. The cars will be newer and the emissions levels will be lower because of this. Many newer cars being manufactured will have to meet the LEV standards at the minimum.

ULEV (Ultra Low Emission Vehicle)

ULEVs are a tier above LEVs. These types of vehicles produce 50% cleaner emissions into the air. Examples of ULEVs include:

  • Honda Odyssey Minivan
  • Chevrolet Malibu Maxx
  • Hyundai Accent

While ULEVs are still tiered under the Zero Emissions Vehicles, these types of vehicles are still better than regular Low Emission Vehicles by producing lesser amounts of damaging air pollutants.

SULEV (Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle)

SULEV is the tier right below the PZEV vehicles. SULEV and PZEV can be used in some instances interchangeably as well. Examples of SULEVs include:

  • Honda Civic Hybrid
  • Kia Forte
  • Hyundai Elantra

These types of vehicles will have a more significant percentage of giving off lower levels of air pollution from vehicles. A vehicle must reach a certain standard to be considered a SULEV. The standard to a SULEV is like the standards needed for a PZEV, which is why vehicles can sometimes fall under both types at the same time. Also, SULEVs can be hybrids or can run off gasoline as well.


Electric Vehicles are hitting dealerships everywhere nowadays. Electric Vehicles can run entirely off batteries and will have to be charged. When looking for a quick trip to town or to run errands close by, a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle might be best. Extended Range for extended drives and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles are also options available. If that isn’t enough for you right now, there are plenty of great hybrids currently on the market. Besides, many more makes and models of Electric Vehicles will be rolling out in the years to come.

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