The electric vehicle dictionary
12 minutes readAug 1, 2021

The electric vehicle dictionary

EV essentials | Electric vehicle

Complete glossary: the most commonly used terms in the electric car vocabulary, including acronyms such as PHEV, FCEV, V2G, CPO, WLTP...

Also available in: Català | English | Español

The transition to electric vehicles is gaining momentum day by day. More and more scooters, bicycles and cars, both hybrid and fully electric, are taking over our streets.

However, there is still a great deal of knowledge on the subject and most of the concepts and terms related to electric mobility are still a little distant for a large part of our society. For this reason, we bring you a complete guide by topics, which will help you to familiarise you with and understand the EV terminology. Here we go!

Electric car vocabulary

Let's start with the basic terms included in the electric vehicle dictionary:

  • Electric motor

An electric motor is characterised by having instant torque, as well as not generating any type of pollutant emissions during its use, and without the need for a clutch or gear change (which is why they are automatic).

  • Torque

This is the physical magnitude, measured in Newton/meter (Nm), which measures the force to be applied to the motor shaft. In the case of electric cars, they deliver 100% of the torque instantaneously, which translates into very powerful accelerations (going from 0 to 62 mi/h in less than 8 seconds in most EV).

  • Charging cycle

Means each period of fully recharging and discharging. That is, if one day we recharge our electric car to 60%, we will not have completed a charging cycle until another day we recharge the remaining 40% to reach 100%.

  • Lifecycle

This is the total number of charging cycles a battery is capable of withstanding over its useful life (lifespan) while maintaining 100% of its capacity.

Current lithium-ion batteries have a lifespan of between 8 and 10 years (coinciding with the warranty period most offered by brands), which is equivalent to about 3,000 complete charging cycles.

Beware! After these years it does not mean that the battery is no longer useless, it means that it will have undergone a degradation process and that it will go from offering 100% of its capacity to 80% or 70%. Even so, it can still be reused, for example, for domestic energy storage or energy captured by solar panels.

  • Memory effect

This is the reduction of battery capacity with incomplete charging. It occurs when a battery is recharged without first being fully discharged. To counteract this, it is recommended that charges should always be full.

However, this does not affect electric cars with current lithium-ion batteries, as they have a minimal memory effect. This means that we can plug in our vehicle as many times as we want without having to worry about the impact on the battery, as its lifespan will depend on the full number of charging cycles carried out.

Remember! The best way to take care of your electric car battery is to keep it charged to between 20% and 80% and avoid both discharging and full recharging.

  • Regenerative breaking

This is a system that allows the battery of your car, whether 100% electric or hybrid, to be recharged when you press the brake pedal or during the inertia of a stop. Thus, the kinetic energy generated during deceleration is used to transform it into electricity, in other words, into kilometres of range.

  • Range anxiety

This is the fear that electric car drivers have in case their vehicle runs out of energy to reach its destination.

However, more and more models are offering longer ranges and more and more charging stations are being installed throughout the country, which helps to reduce this anxiety.

Acronyms for electric mobility

Within the electric vehicle dictionary, there are many acronyms that refer to different types of electric vehicles and other aspects related to the charging process:

  • HEV (Hybrid Electric Vehicle)

This acronym refers to conventional hybrid vehicles that do not need to be recharged. In these cars, the main engine is the internal combustion engine (mostly petrol) and they have a battery and electric motor that serve as back-up at certain times. They can only be driven in electric mode for short distances and at low speeds. The battery is recharged by the braking recovery system and by the internal combustion engine itself.

  • PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle)

Acronym that refers to plug-in hybrids. They work thanks to the combustion engine, but have an electric motor and batteries. They can be driven in 100% electric mode (with a reduced range of around 32 miles), in hybrid mode or only with the combustion engine. This type of vehicle must be charged by plugging the car into the electric grid.

  • MHEV (Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle)

These are cars known as "semi-hybrid" whose main engine is the internal combustion engine but which are equipped with a 48-volt system that provides a little extra power and torque in certain circumstances.

  • BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle)

These are 100% electric cars. They are powered exclusively by the energy of their batteries, which are usually lithium-ion batteries. A small part can be charged through the energy recovery system (regenerative braking) but the car must be connected to the electric grid, either at home or at specific charging stations.

  • FCEV (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle)

These are fuel cell electric cars that use hydrogen as fuel to produce the electricity needed to move the car. In this case, if we talk about green hydrogen, we are talking about a zero-emission vehicle, as it only emits water vapour.

  • Z.E. or ZEV (Zero Emissions Vehicle)

Means a vehicle that does not emit CO2 or pollutants. It refers to both 100% electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

  • AVAS (Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System) or PWS (Pedestrian Warning System)

This is an acoustic warning system that, by law, all electric cars must incorporate to alert pedestrians to their presence.

Its purpose is to prevent pedestrian collisions, especially in urban areas, where there is a higher risk.

  • NEDC (New European Driving Cycle) range

European homologation protocol that evaluates the consumption and range of vehicles. It was in force until 1 September 2018, although we can still find vehicles that certify their NEDC range.

  • WLTP (Worldwide harmonised Light vehicles Test Procedure)

This is the new and current European homologation protocol that evaluates consumption, emissions and vehicles' range in a much more realistic way than the NEDC protocol.

  • EPA and JC08 ranges

The EPA range refers to the average range of an electric car according to the official approval protocol of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The JC08 range refers to the average range according to the Japanese type approval protocol.

  • CPO (Charge Point Operator)

Refers to the operators that manage EV charging stations, which can be private companies, public entities such as local councils, companies specialised in charging infrastructures, etc.

  • eMSP (eMobility Service Provider)

To better understand this figure, let's take the example of two Wallbox, Power Electronics, EVLink or ChargePoint (or any other brand) charging stations, which are operated and managed by the City Council and whose eMSP is Place to Plug, given that it is the company that offers the app for electric car drivers that allows us to charge our vehicle at these charging stations.

  • BMS (Battery Management System)

This is the electrical system that manages the charging and discharging of the battery. It collects data on its status by monitoring power, amperage, voltage, cell temperature and informs us about the general state of the battery.

  • EMS (Energy Management System)

An EMS is an energy management system that plays a key role in Smart Grids; an electrical grid that includes many energy measures, including energy efficient resources, smart meters and renewable energy resources, among others.

  • Smart Grids

The most famous Smart Grid is probably V2G (Vehicle to Grid), a type of technology based on bi-directional charging management between the electric car and the grid. This turns electric vehicles into large batteries that interact with the grid and can help balance energy supply and demand, increasing grid stability and avoiding peak demand.

V2H (Vehicle to Home) is a variant of Vehicle to Grid where the electric car is used as an electrical storage system for homes, and can act as a power source for houses, for example, in emergencies such as power outages.

And finally, V2B (Vehicle to Building) is a variant of Vehicle to Home but applied to buildings or industries that have electric vehicle fleets.

  • SOC (State of Charge)

This is the indicator of the level of charge available to the electric car at a given moment and is expressed as a percentage (100% fully, for example). DOD (Depth of Discharge), on the other hand, is the opposite concept, as it indicates the depth of discharge of the battery (100% empty, for example).

It is essential to master the terms that refer to the charging process, as this is a fundamental aspect of any electric car. So, let's find out which are the most commonly used words in this area included in the electric vehicle dictionary:

  • Battery and cells

The battery is the electrical storage unit made up of electrochemical cells that transform the stored chemical energy into electrical current capable of powering the vehicle. Today, lithium-ion batteries abound and the first solid-state batteries are beginning to appear.

  • Alternate current (AC)

A type of electric current, in which the direction of electron flow is at regular intervals or in cycles. It is used in the domestic network.

In electric car charging, it is the type of current that allows conventional charging (from 2.4 kW to 7.5 kW), semi-fast charging and fast charging by means of three-phase at 43 kW.

  • Direct current (DC)

In this case, the electrons always travel in the same direction and are transmitted constantly.

In electric car charging, this is the type of current that allows semi-fast charging at 22 kW, fast charging at 50 kW, super-fast charging at 100 kW and 150 kW and ultra-fast charging at powers of between 175 kW and 350 kW (which allows the vehicle to be fully charged within 10 and 5 minutes, respectively).

  • Single-phase charging

This is the most common option in homes for low-power devices (washing machine, television, Smartphone...). The power varies depending on the needs and size of the home. The most common are between 3.45 kW and 9.2 kW.

In the electric car area, it is linked to AC and allows conventional and semi-fast charging of up to 7.5 kW of power.

  • Three-phase charging

This charge differs from the previous one in that it has a faster charging speed, as it is capable of tripling the current transported, taking into account that it can be produced both in alternating and direct current. More power and efficiency is obtained from the same current.

  • Smart Charging

Smart Charging is a system that allows electric vehicles, charging stations and operators to share data connections.

This cloud-based connection technology allows remote charging management and optimisation of the energy consumption of any charging station based on multiple aspects such as available power, number of vehicles being charged at the same time, charging priorities, etc.

  • Wallbox

Popularly used term for physical wall-mounted charging stations that provide electric current to the electric car to enable its charging.

  • Range

The number of kilometres or miles an electric car can travel on a full battery charge.

  • Ampere (A) and ampere-hour (Ah)

The ampere is the unit that measures the intensity of electric current, i.e. the speed at which it flows. A household socket is typically 16 amps.

The ampere-hour represents the amount of electricity that, in one hour, is capable of flowing through the battery terminals.

  • Kilowatt (kW)

This is the unit of measurement of electrical power and is used to indicate both the car's power (100 kW) and the charging power (7.5 kW, 50 kW...). It is also the unit that indicates the contracted power of our home, which is usually between 3 kW and 10 kW.

1 kW is equivalent to 1,000 W (watts) and in turn is equivalent to 1.36 hp (horsepower). Therefore, if an electric car has a power of 100 kW, it means it is equivalent to 136 hp.

  • Kilowatt per hour (kWh)

Indicates the amount of electrical energy that can be provided, consumed or produced per hour. It is used to express both the battery capacity and the average vehicle consumption.

In terms of battery capacity, the larger an electric battery is, the more range it will offer and the more power it will support.

As for the average vehicle consumption, kWh represents the standardised measure to indicate the consumption of an electric car. The average electric car typically consumes 3 mi/kWh (which is equivalent to 15 kWh/100 km).

Thus, a car with a 60 kWh battery, if it takes 15 kWh per 62 miles, it will have a range of 248 miles. And this same battery, with a charging power of 50 kW, would take only 1.5 hours to fully charge.

  • Volt (V)

Is the unit of measurement for electrical potential, electromotive force and electrical voltage. The standard household power supply in Europe is usually 230 V.

Electric cars have two electrical circuits; a low voltage circuit between 12 V and 24 V (for windows, lighting, radio...) and a high voltage circuit from 48 V to 500 V, which is responsible for sending power from the batteries to the electric motor.

Essential terms

And finally, does CHAdeMO, Mennekes, CCS, Yazaki, Schuko... ring a bell? These are connector types that are also included in the electric vehicle dictionary, and are essential for you to know!

Closely linked to connector types, it is also important to familiarise yourself with the charging types and charging modes that exist, since, depending on the connector you have, you will be able to charge at one or another power level.

🚙🔌 And how can Place to Plug help you?

Offering you an end-to-end solution for the entire EV charging industry, whether you are an electric car driver, operator, business or institution: at Place to Plug we cover everything from the sale and installation of the perfect charging station for your home or business to its subsequent monitoring using our EV management software and integrating the station into our app for electric car drivers:

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