Electric vehicles 101: terms explained

Written by Tudor Marchis

Updated: February 7, 2024
Est. Reading: 2 minutes

To help everyone be on the same page with electric vehicle terms, we created a list that explains the most common ones. From AC to ZE, we present it all!

We’ll start with the ones related to electric current:

AC stands for alternating current, which is the type of electric current you'll find at any electrical outlet.

DC, or direct current, is the type of electricity that can be stored in batteries.

Electric cars store electricity in the form of direct current. They can either be charged at AC or DC chargers. To charge from an AC charger, the current must be converted to DC. This process is done by a device inside the car called on board charger, or OBC. We at LEKTRI.CO develop and produce AC chargers.

Please also check the last section of this post to find out more about two of the most important units when it comes to electric vehicles.

In the next section, we will look at some special terms for electric vehicles.

  • EV - electric vehicle
  • BEV - battery electric vehicle
  • FCEV - fuel cell electric vehicle
  • PHEV - plug-in electric vehicle
  • HEV - hybrid electric vehicle
  • ICE - internal combustion engine

There are lots more acronyms you can use when talking about electric vehicles, the most common being the aforementioned. ULEV and ZEV are also used when talking about ultra-low emission vehicles or zero-emission vehicles, but they're not so common.

When talking about BEVs there are some terms worth mentioning about the current state of the battery:

  • SoC - state of charge - this basically shows the percentage of battery left
  • SoH - state of health - is an indication of the degradation of the traction battery
  • DoD - depth of discharge - indicates how much energy is cycled out of (discharged) and into (charged) the battery on a given cycle. The DOD of a battery is expressed as a percentage of its total capacity.
  • CEC - cumulative energy charged - a meter for how much energy has been charged into the battery throughout its lifetime
  • CED - cumulative energy discharged - a meter for how much energy has been discharged into the battery throughout its lifetime

When it comes to charging standards, AC and DC are the two main categories:

Type 2 - EuropeCCS (type 2) - Europe
J1772 (type 1) - USACCS (type 1) - USA
J1772 (type 1) - JapanCHAdeMO - Japan
GB/T - ChinaGB/T - China

CCS - combined charging system is basically a type 2 (for Europe) or type 1 (for the USA) with two additional direct current pins at the bottom.

A confusion many people make, not necessarily because of lack of knowledge, is between the measuring units of power and energy.
Power, used when charging the battery or as an indication of how powerful a motor is, is measured in kilowatt, although the SI unit (International System of Units) is Watt.
Energy on the other hand is measured in kilowatt-hour or Watt-hour for the SI unit.

So when talking about charging power, whether it's AC or DC, you should use kilowatts (kW); and when talking about battery capacity, energy consumption, or efficiency, you should use kilowatt-hours (kWh).

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