Electric Vehicles

Any vehicle using electricity as either its primary fuel, or in collaboration with a conventional engine to help improve its efficiency, can be referred to as an electric drive vehicle. These commercial and consumer vehicles have increasingly become more available in the past few years, and will continue to do so in the future. In March 2012, President Obama announced the EV Everywhere Challenge at the Daimler Truck factory in Mt. Holly, NC, which aims to make electric vehicles more affordable and convenient to own and drive than their gasoline powered counterparts within the next 10 years. With this project comes the Workplace Charging Challenge, for which one of the NC PEV Taskforce’s key sponsors, Advanced Energy, is an Ambassador. With any evolving technology, there are variations. As such, electric drive vehicles can generally be classified into two categories, Hybrid Electric Vehicles and Plug-In Electric Vehicles.

A highway-capable vehicle utilizing liquid fuels (such as gasoline) to generate energy, but incorporating an energy storage system (such as a battery) to capture excess electricity and energy from external sources, which in turn increases the overall efficiency of the vehicle (reducing fuel consumption and emissions). This type of vehicle does not need to be plugged into an electricity source in order to charge the battery. Instead, it charges the battery by using a combination of regenerative breaking and power from the internal combustion engine (ICE). HEVs can be classified as either mild hybrids or full hybrids.

MILD HYBRIDS have an electric motor that allows the engine to be turned off when the vehicle is coasting, breaking or idling, and assists the engine when extra power is needed, but cannot propel the vehicle on its own in electric-only mode.

FULL HYBRIDS have the ability to power the vehicle using only the engine, only the electric motor, or a combination of both. The Toyota Prius is an example of a full hybrid.

A vehicle that plugs into the electric power grid to receive energy for propulsion. PEVs include:

Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)

  • Similar to hybrid electric vehicles
  • Includes additional energy storage capacity that recharges from the electric power grid
  • Additional energy storage capacity allows the vehicle to drive using only electricity for 10 to 60 miles (depending on the vehicle’s battery size)
  • Can be Parallel or Series:

    Parallel PHEVs

    • Uses both ICE and/or an electric motor for propulsion
    • ICE can also act as a generator to recharge the batteries
    • Batteries can also be recharged through regenerative braking or by accessing the electrical grid
    • Have an essentially unlimited range due to the presence of the ICE

    Series PHEVs


    • Uses an electric motor for propulsion
    • Also utilizes an ICE to run a generator that recharges the vehicle’s batteries
    • Batteries can also be recharged through regenerative braking or by accessing the electrical grid
    • Have an essentially unlimited range due to the presence of ICE

All-Electric Vehicles

  • Any vehicle driven solely by an electric motor

Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs)

  • Includes any four-wheeled all-electric vehicle that is limited to a top speed of 25 miles per hour (mph)
  • Typically lightweight
  • Utilizes a small electric motor and battery pack
  • Obtains a typical range of 20 to 50 miles; most states only allow NEVs on roads with speed limits of 35 to 45 mph or less
  • Typically less expensive to produce than highway-capable vehicles
  • Most commonly used as fleet vehicles for maintenance, security, etc. They are also often used at universities, retirement communities or other large campuses/facilities

The key difference between Series and Parallel hybrids is that Series hybrids ONLY use an electric motor to drive the wheels.

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