Electric mobility includes light-duty automobiles, medium- and heavy-duty electric vehicles, electric micromobility devices, and transit vehicles. The EV market is evolving rapidly, with models available in a range of vehicle types, from compact cars and sedans to sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and pickup trucks. Some EVs operate solely on batteries, while others are plug-in hybrid models with both an electric motor and an internal combustion engine. This section provides an overview of the various types of EVs and types of charging infrastructure, with information pertaining to light-, medium-, and heavy-duty electric vehicles, including battery electric buses (BEBs) used in transit applications, electric school buses (ESBs), and electric micromobility such as electric bicycles (e-bikes).
There are three types of electric vehicles available on the market:
Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs)
Battery electric vehicles (BEVs)—also referred to as “all-electric vehicles”—run on electricity only and are recharged from an external power source. They are propelled by one or more electric motors powered by rechargeable battery packs.
Almost all BEVs can travel at least 100 miles on a charge, and many new vehicles coming on the market offer an all-electric range of 200-300 miles or more. Included among BEVs are battery-powered buses, such as BEBs and ESBs.
Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) also use batteries to power an electric motor and can be recharged from an external power source, but they incorporate a smaller internal combustion engine that can recharge the battery (or in some models, directly power the wheels) to allow for longer driving ranges.
PHEVs can usually drive moderate distances in “EV mode” using only the battery, typically from 20 to 50 miles in current models. This significantly reduces their gasoline use and emissions under typical driving conditions, since most trips are short.
PHEVs use 14 to 47 percent less fuel than conventional vehicles if their batteries are fully charged. When electricity is unavailable, PHEVs can run on conventional fuel (i.e., gasoline or diesel).
Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs)
Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) use a highly efficient electrochemical process to convert hydrogen into electricity, which powers an electric motor. FCEVs on the market today are not designed for recharging their battery from an external source. Rather, they are fueled with compressed hydrogen gas that is stored in a tank on the vehicle.
This toolkit uses the term “EV” to refer to both BEVs and PHEVs 1, since these vehicles can be recharged from external sources and are capable of operating with zero tailpipe emissions. This toolkit focuses primarily on EVs and does not address HEVs and FCEVs unless otherwise noted.
1Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), powered by a combination of an internal combustion engine with electric motors running off a battery pack for greater efficiency, have batteries that cannot be recharged from an external source, and are not considered EVs.
Also in This Section
Electric Mobility Basics
Benefits and Implementation Challenges of Rural Vehicle Electrification