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Electric Vehicle Types

A car is plugged into an EV charger on a city street, with another parked car and a bike rack in the background.

Electric mobility includes light-, medium-, and heavy-duty electric vehicles, electric micromobility devices, and transit vehicles. The electric light-duty vehicle market is evolving rapidly, with models available in a range of vehicle types, from motorcycles, compact cars, and sedans to 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 types of electric mobility and types of charging infrastructure, including specifics pertaining to battery electric buses (BEBs) used in transit applications, electric school buses (ESBs), and electric micromobility.

Three Vehicle Types

There are three types of electric vehicles available on the market: battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and fuel cell electric vehicles.

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, including electric motorcycles, 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 electric 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 gasoline alone.

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 Focuses on BEVs and PHEVs

This toolkit uses the term “EV” to refer to both BEVs and PHEVs, 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 FCEVs unless otherwise noted.

Hybrid 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.


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