Types of electric cars

If you’re interested in the benefits of switching to an electric vehicle (EV) but you’re having trouble distinguishing your PHEV from your FCEV, then don’t worry, help is at hand.

Let’s compare the various types of electric vehicles available, to give you a better understanding about which EV is right for you.

Types of electric cars

Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs)

BEVs are fully electric vehicles, which means they are powered exclusively by electricity. This electricity is supplied to the vehicle from an electrical charging station – located either at home or at a public charging station.

BEVs can also top up their batteries by putting the electric motor in reverse during braking to slightly improve their range. This is often referred to as “regenerative braking” and is a common feature among electric vehicles.

Types of electric vehicles

How cost-effective are BEVs?

Currently, BEVs offer a range of around 181 miles, with predictions of 300 miles being the norm in 2 – 4 years. When you factor in that the average charging cost is around £3 – £4, it’s easy to understand why people are attracted to the cost savings over petrol/diesel alternatives.

A lack of traditional components in BEVs, such as a clutch, exhaust or fuel tank, means far less can go wrong. As a result of this, you’ll pay much less for servicing and nothing for road tax (although this may change in the future). As an added bonus this also means that BEVs are smoother and far quieter than petrol/diesel vehicles to drive.

What's the best electric car

Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs)

HEVs are powered by a petrol engine and an on board electric battery. The battery in a HEV is far smaller than a BEV battery, which reduces the range. However, once this battery has been depleted, the petrol engine seamlessly kicks in so that the HEV can continue.

HEVs are also capable of recharging their battery through regenerative braking or by being plugged into a dedicated charging station.

How cost-effective are HEVs?

The average range of a hybrid electric vehicle travelling on electricity alone is about 20 – 50 miles. After that, your costs depend on the efficiency of the combustion engine part of the vehicle.

The presence of an engine and related components also means you don’t benefit from the reduced servicing costs of a BEV. You may also have to pay road tax, depending on how much CO2 your HEV produces.

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)

PHEV’s, often known as Extended Range Electric Vehicles or (EREVs), have a plug-in battery pack, electric motor and a petrol or diesel engine. With a PHEV the electric motor drives the wheels, with the combustion engine serving as a generator to recharge the battery.

How cost-effective are PHEVs?

Much like its HEV cousin, a PHEV’s range on electricity alone is limited to around 20 – 50 miles. However, the PHEV’s ability to recharge its electric battery during the journey means fewer trips to recharge stations.

Again, the presence of a traditional engine means more can go wrong with a PHEV, so you won’t save much on servicing costs. You should also check to see how much road tax you will have to pay for an PHEV.

What is the right electric car for me

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCEVs)

As the name suggests, FCEVs use hydrogen (the most abundant fuel source in the known universe) to produce electricity. This electricity is then fed into the motor to turn the wheels of the car.

FCEVs are refuelled almost like a normal car at a hydrogen filling station. There is no battery to charge and no need for a petrol or diesel engine. However, hydrogen-powered vehicles do still need an exhaust pipe as the hydrogen fuel cells emit water (and heat) as waste.

How cost-effective are FCEVs?

With a range of around 300 miles, an FCEV can cover quite a distance before needing a charge. The price of fuel is around £10 - £15 per kilo, so a total refuel will depend on the capacity of your fuel cells. Typically you’re looking at around £50 – £75 to refuel a hydrogen car.

Unfortunately (as of September 2018) there are fewer than 20 hydrogen filling stations throughout the UK, so you will need to plan your trips carefully until this network is expanded.

Servicing can be tricky and costly, as hydrogen fuel cells are both complex and potentially dangerous, often requiring the car to be serviced by specially trained staff.

You do however benefit from road tax exemption (although this may change in the future), thanks to the hydrogen fuel cells producing zero emissions.

Electric adaption vehicles

It’s possible to convert most petrol or diesel vehicles to electric, often for much less than the cost of purchasing a new electric vehicle. This is an attractive option for local bus operators or companies with large fleets of vehicles looking to save money on their fuel and servicing costs.

Which EV is right for you?

Really, it depends on your needs and personal circumstances. The best thing you can do is test drive an EV for yourself to see how you feel about it. It also wouldn’t hurt to talk to an existing EV owner, as their perspective could be invaluable.

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