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Electric vehicles defined

The automotive industry is investing in the development of electric vehicles and hybrids as it moves to meet NAFTA environmental standards that come into effect in 2016.


March 14, 2012
Joe Terrett

The automotive industry is investing in the development of electric vehicles and hybrids as it moves to meet NAFTA environmental standards that come into effect in 2016. Here’s an overview of what constitutes an electric vehicle.

Hybrid electric vehicle (HEV):  It uses an on-board rechargeable energy storage system and a fuel-based power source for vehicle propulsion. Capturing kinetic energy through regenerative braking recharges the batteries.

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV): An extension of hybrid vehicle technology, but with greater capacity and a different battery pack that recharges from the electricity grid. This allows for some electric-only driving, typically for distances between 20 and 60 kilometres, sufficient to meet the needs of most commuting and other urban-based trips. The electric-only range can be extended if recharging is available at work or shopping destinations. These vehicles get better fuel economy than a standard hybrid vehicle because they rely mostly on electricity for short trips.

Plug-in hybrids overcome the range limitation of a battery electric vehicle and thus eliminate one of the most important concerns that some consumers have about electric vehicles.

Battery electric vehicles (BEV): There’s no gasoline engine. All the power needs are supplied by the battery, which is recharged from the electricity grid. Electric motors and controls are similar to those of HEVs and PHEVs, but the battery has greater capacity because it provides all the range and power needed for acceleration and accessories such as air conditioning and heating.

BEVs have been available in small numbers for about 20 years, mainly in demonstration fleets. Although in the past there has been interest in them, full commercial introduction has been delayed because all elements of the technology were not ready at a performance level or cost that consumers would be willing to pay.

Recent progress in battery technology allows for improved vehicle range with reduced battery weight, and as a result several manufacturers will soon begin offering them.

Driving an electric vehicle: Electric motors are quiet and, unlike those with gasoline engines, have maximum torque available at low speed.

Source: Ontario Ministry of Transportation

This articles appears in the January/February 2012 issue of PLANT.