Electric Cars 101 – A Quick Guide To Different Types Of Electric Vehicles

In the EV universe, there are several types of all-electric vehicles, including cars, scooters, motorbikes, vans, and trucks, and each of those has various models.

At a Glance:
1️⃣ Electric vehicles include BEVs, HEVs, PHEVs, and FCEVs.

2️⃣ Electric trucks include garbage trucks, buses, and delivery trucks.

3️⃣ For electric two-wheeled vehicles, there are street bikes, dirt bikes, and scooters

Now let’s dive into the main types of electric vehicles, starting with cars.

Types Of Electric Vehicles

In this EV segment, various types of cars are available; the most common are BEVs, PHEVs, and HEVs.

The Battery Electric Vehicle – BEV

The BEV is a battery-powered electric vehicle with no internal combustion engine (ICE) that uses gasoline. Instead, all the vehicle’s power comes from the main battery pack, which can only be recharged by plugging it in.

Charging is done through Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 or DCFC charging, and when fully charged, they would have a range of between 300 and 500 miles, have zero emissions, and require very little maintenance.

These are the most common EVs in the USA, outselling hybrid and plug-in vehicles by some margin, and this trend is expected to increase considerably over the next 7-10 years.

The Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle – PHEV 

The PHEV uses the ICE as its primary power source, and it has a traction battery that can drive the electric motors to propel the vehicle over short ranges. As a result, while the emissions are lower than regular cars, they are still higher than those of the zero-emission pure EV.

The PHEV only has a limited range of electric power as the battery is smaller than the BEV and can only get around 30-50 miles.

However, they do have regenerative braking, which takes the kinetic energy lost in braking and uses the electric motor as a generator to recharge the traction battery.

PHEVs can only be charged using Level 1 and Leve 2 plug-in chargers and cannot use Level 3 or DCFC charging, and because they have an engine, regular services are required.

Hybrid Electric Vehicles – HEVs

The internal combustion engine is the primary source of power, and the electric motor supports the ICE, providing lower emissions from a smaller engine while still delivering good performance.

The mild HEV has a smaller battery and will shut the engine off when idling to preserve fuel and add support to the engine to improve consumption –  but it cannot power the vehicle for any distance.

A full hybrid vehicle is more like a PHEV because it has a larger battery and can propel it over short distances if needed.

The HEV cannot be plugged in, and while it uses regenerative braking to recharge the battery, this is the only recharging source available.

Types Of Electric Trucks And Buses

Aside from cars, there are also electrically-powered buses and trucks.

The Electric Bus

Electric buses are essentially larger electric vehicles powered solely by the battery. So, of course, they need a larger battery, which they can accommodate because they are bigger.

Considering the load they carry, their range is around 120 miles on a full charge, and like BEVs, they can use Level 1, Level 2, or DCFC Level 3 charging.

Electric buses also have zero emissions and low maintenance as they don’t have an ICE.

Electric Trucks

Electric trucks have various power source options, including battery-only, plug-in hybrid, fuel cell electric, and hybrid, like regular electric vehicles. They will charge using either plug-in power or regenerative power created while driving.

Electric trucks range from pickups to ambulances as well as long-distance lorries, semi-trailers, mail trucks, local d garbage trucks, and pretty much any kind of truck you can imagine, and they are more common than you might think. 

The range would depend on the type of truck and load, but the record distance for a long-distance delivery truck was 682 miles, with an average speed of 31 mph!

As the world moves to lower emissions, full electric trucks, and lower-emission plug-in hybrids will gradually become the preferred options in electric trucks.

Types Of Electric Motorcycles And Scooters

Aside from electric cars, many two-wheel electric vehicles are available, including motorbikes and scooters.

Electric Scooters

Electric scooters have the same basic concept as electric vehicles – an electrically powered motor with a rechargeable battery. The scooter has either a Brushed DC Motor (BDC) or a Brushless DC Motor (BLDC)- the BLDC is more efficient than the BDC and is the most common motor used.

Electric scooters come with a charger, which can be plugged into the wall outlet to charge. Batteries are usually lithium-ion as they are the most efficient, lightweight, and durable compared to lead-calcium or lead-acid batteries.

Electric scooters are designed for short-range travel, get around 12-15 miles per full charge, and have zero emissions.

Electric Motorbikes

As with ICE-powered motorbikes, electric motorbikes come in various models, from street bikes to dirt bikes. They use an electric engine powered by a rechargeable battery as the scooters do.

An electric motorbike would have a more powerful engine than a scooter and a larger battery. It would take around 1-3 hours to charge fully, and the average range of an electric motorbike would be about 155 miles, ranging from 60 miles to 240 miles depending on the model and make.

Like scooters and BEVs, electric motorbikes are quiet, have zero emissions, and don’t require much maintenance.

Regarding speed, an electric motor can never deliver the same power as a gasoline engine. Still, some electric motorbikes can reach up to, 75mph-which is not shabby at all considering it’s electric!


What Is The Most Common Type Of Electric Vehicle? 

In the USA, the BEV is the most common EV, outselling PHEVs and HEVs and doubling sales in the past year to more than 800 000 units. This is due to the increased demand for zero-emission vehicle climbs and incentives like Federal Tax Credits of up to $7500 for new EVs and $4000 for used EVs.

Which Is Cheaper To Run – Electric Or Hybrid? 

Electric vehicles are much cheaper to run as they don’t require fuel or costly maintenance. While they need to be recharged, the cost of electricity is much less than the cost of fuel, and between operational and maintenance costs, as well as Federal and State tax credits, BEVs are cheaper to run than PHEVs or HEVs.

Key Takeaways

1️⃣ There are a variety of electric vehicles, from scooters to buses, trucks to delivery vans, and of course, regular cars.

2️⃣ Whether electric-only like BEVs or hybrids that use fuel and electricity like PHEVs and HEVs, EVs of all shapes and sizes are here to stay.

3️⃣ The fundamental differences lie in their range, emissions, charging capabilities, and, of course, their application.

The future for electric vehicles is bright, and we can only wonder what new types of electric cars and power sources await.

Check out these articles on Federal Tax Credits, the different EV types, the projected growth trends for electric buses and trucks, and some of the best electric motorbikes available today.