Electric vehicle technologies & types

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Go all electric, or drive a hybrid that offers greater range

Plug-in electric vehicle is the technical term to describe all vehicles that have a battery that can be charged or plugged into an electrical outlet. But the more common term, and the one you'll see throughout this section, is electric vehicle.

Here are the three main types of electric vehicles, plus one more to keep an eye on:

Battery electric vehicle   

A battery electric vehicle runs entirely on a battery and electric drive train, and gets its "fuel" from plugging into external source of electricity to recharge their batteries.

Like all electric vehicles, BEVs can also recharge their batteries through regenerative braking: the vehicle's electric motor actually assists in slowing the vehicle and recovers some of the energy normally converted to heat by the brakes.

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles

Plug-in hybrids run mostly on batteries recharged by plugging into the power grid. But they're also equipped with an internal combustion engine that can recharge the battery and/or replace the electric drive train when the battery is low and more power is required.

PHEVs are often cheaper and cleaner to run than traditional hybrids because they can be recharged by the power grid.

Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs)

HEVs on the road today have two complementary drive systems: a gasoline engine and fuel tank, plus an electric motor, battery and controls. The engine and the motor can simultaneously turn the transmission, which powers the wheels. HEVs are not plug-ins, as they can't be recharged from the power grid.  

Fuel-cell electric vehicles

Electricity for the drive train of the fuel-cell vehicle is generated from hydrogen and oxygen in fuel cells housed within the vehicle. The vehicle's advantages are that it only takes a few minutes to refuel, has a range of about 500 km, and emits only water as exhaust.

But while it's expected to grow in popularity, there's only one available model in Canada (the fuel–cell Hyundai Tucson) and there are only a handful of public hydrogen refuelling stations in Canada, including B.C.'s lone station at Surrey's Powertech Labs, a subsidiary of BC Hydro.