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Electric car jargon explained

What the EV does all that electric car jargon mean?

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Thinking of going electric? You’ve seen the cars, heard about the technology, and fancy some of the savings they can offer. You’ve got the buzz and now you’re getting ready to make the switch.

You’re not alone: thousands of car drivers in the UK are moving over to electric vehicles (EVs), and sales figures continue to soar. Indeed, more EVs were sold in 2021 than in the previous five years added together.

But a glance through the numerous websites, chat room forums and advice articles online can be more confusing than helpful. What does it all mean?

Every industry has its own jargon and terminology, and the car industry has more than most. Technology is constantly gathering pace and it’s often difficult to keep up – not only with established areas of the business, but with new developments and technology too.

Drill down even further into the world of electric vehicles and you’ll find an array of terms, expressions and acronyms as manufacturers, dealers and suppliers all try to map out this brave new world we are entering.

It’s all useful stuff, but you can end up feeling a bit left out because you simply don’t know what it all signifies. And who can blame you? There’s terminology in here that you may have never came across before.

Tusker, a company car and salary sacrifice scheme organisation, wants to help put an end to that. Tusker says there has never been a better time to drive an electric car and is campaigning constantly to help customers and businesses understand more about electric vehicles and their increasing advantages.

So to help you through the minefield of electric vehicle jargon, here is a list of some of the terms and phrases you might come across in your search for a new EV.


Alternative Fuel Vehicle: No fossil fuels here: these are vehicles that run on anything other than traditional petrol or diesel. If you don’t fill up at your local garage you probably have an AFV, which can include electric, solar, hydrogen and ethanol fuel sources.


Battery Electric Vehicle: There are many types of electric vehicle as we will see, but a BEV is a car or van that runs using power solely from a rechargeable battery. You plug it in, charge it up and go. Simple as that.

In practical terms, all fully electric cars (EVs) that you can buy today are powered by batteries, so the terms EV and BEV are used interchangeably.


Hybrid Electric Vehicle: Not ready for a full electric car yet? A hybrid or HEV has both a traditional combustion engine (usually petrol-powered but sometimes a diesel) and an electric motor powered by a battery. The battery is charged using energy gained when the car is coasting or braking, or by using the engine as a generator to charge it up, but it can’t be plugged into a socket to take electricity from the grid.

A hybrid can travel a short distance on electric power alone – maybe a few miles. The electric motor will get more use in stop-start city driving as the battery is regularly recharged whenever you coast or brake.

This type of car is sometimes referred to as a ‘self-charging hybrid’, but that is just marketing nonsense. All of the electricity in a hybrid car ultimately comes from petrol or diesel.


Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle: One of the HEV family, the mild hybrid uses a small electric motor and battery to support the conventional petrol or diesel engine. This helps to provide fuel-efficient, cleaner motoring.

Calling a mild hybrid a type of ‘electric vehicle’ is something of a misnomer because the electric motor cannot actually drive the car on its own. The fossil-fuel engine always needs to be running to drive the wheels, while the electric motor is used to give it a boost when required.


Miles per Kilowatt Hour: If you drive a petrol or diesel car, you should know what mpg or l/km mean – miles per gallon or litres per kilometre. That’s showing you how far your car goes per unit of fuel. Similarly, mpkWh tells you how far your EV will travel per kWh or unit of electricity. A kilowatt hour is how much energy is used in one hour.


Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle: Rather like a regular hybrid, these cars have a regular engine and a battery-powered electric motor. Also like a regular hybrid, the car can generate a bit of electricity for the battery every time you slow down or apply the brakes. But the main point is that the batteries in these cars can be plugged in and charged to store much more electricity: usually enough to run the electric motor for between 20 to 50 miles, depending on the vehicle.

That’s perfect for round-town, CO2-free driving where you may never end up relying on the petrol engine at all.

Range anxiety

Range anxiety refers to people’s fears that their EV will run out of electricity before they can find somewhere to charge it.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Lots of drivers have ‘range anxiety’, even those that have owned an electric car for years. But the latest crop of EVs can go much further than older models on a single charge, so the chances of you running our of juice are now thankfully slim as long as you remember to charge up your car every few days.

If you’re taking a long cross-country journey, you’ll still need to plan ahead to factor charging stops into your trip, but most cars now have satnav systems that can take this into account for you.


Regeneration: As mentioned earlier, hybrid and electric cars feature regenerative braking, which produces an amount of electricity simply by coasting or using your car’s brakes. The smart system converts kinetic energy from a moving car into electricity as the car slows down, which is sent to the car’s battery for storage and later use.

All hybrids, plug-in hybrids and fully electric cars have this ability, and on some cars you can adjust the level of regeneration – more regeneration means less coasting, so the car slows faster and reduces the amount of braking force provided by the regular brakes.


Range extender: No worries about the aforementioned range anxiety here. REx cars use a petrol engine and an electric motor like a hybrid, but the petrol engine is generally only used to charge the battery rather than turn the wheels. The electric motor does the driving. Basically, you can think of it as a petrol-powered electric car.

Some range extenders can run purely on petrol power, but others have no physical connection between the petrol engine and the wheels. As a rule, this makes it more efficient than a conventional plug-in hybrid because the petrol engine is working in its most efficient rev range more of the time.

The new LEVC London cabs are range extenders, while BMW used to offer a REx version of the i3 city car.


Range per hour: This is a fairly new way to work out how much power your (or any) electric car charger is going to give you. It’s an estimation of how many miles you will have on your battery after a specific period of time recharging. So 100 RPH will give you 100 miles per hour of charging.


Ultra Low Emission Vehicle: If you are going down the electric route because you want to do your bit for the environment, a ULEV is the car for you. It has been deemed to emit less than 75g/km of CO2 by an international assessment system called WLTP (World Harmonised Light-Vehicle Test Procedure). Great for the environment and your road tax bill.

Still not sure about what something means?

Ask the specialists – Tusker wants you to change over to EVs for the right reasons, based on goals that you understand and, if you’re still not sure what something means, you can contact its support team for help.


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