Written by Daniel S. Cohen, Contributor
There are a lot of acronyms in the electric vehicle (EV) community to describe this new range of vehicles. Naturally, these short-hands which form the basis of language for EV advocates can be very confusing to the general public. Here is a list of the most common, helpful acronyms and what they really mean.
EV (Electric Vehicle)
Naturally, this is the most commonly used term and general acronym for electric vehicles. The term EV refers to any automobile that uses an electric motor to power it to any extent. Whether solely operating on the electric motor, or a combination of electric motor and internal combustion engine (ICE), as long as there is an electric motor, the automobile is an EV.
BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle)
A BEV is an automobile that is exclusively powered by an electric motor; typically by a rechargeable battery pack. BEVs need to be plugged into an electric grid in order for the battery pack to be recharged just as electronics such as iPhones and laptops. Popular examples of BEVs are the Nissan LEAF and the Tesla Model S.
HEV (Hybrid Electric Vehicle)
An HEV is an automobile that primarily uses an internal combustion engine supplemented by an electric motor to improve fuel economy. HEVs do NOT plug into an electric grid to recharge the battery. Simply operating the vehicle recharges the battery much like the 12-volt battery which powers the vehicle’s accessories. An example is the HEV offered in the Toyota Prius line.
PHEV (Plug-in Electric Vehicle)
A PHEV is primarily an electric vehicle but uses the ICE to power the vehicle AFTER the battery pack is depleted. PHEVs must be plugged into an electric grid in order to recharge the battery pack. The Chevrolet Volt is the best selling PHEV with an EPA range of 38 electric miles. Ford Fusion Energi is also a PHEV with an electric only range of 21 miles. Longer EV range vehicles like the VOLT are also known as Extended Range Electric Vehicles (EREV). BMW’s new electric i3 can be ordered with a gasoline powered EREV, extending EV range from 70-110 miles up to 185 miles.
AFV (Alternative Fuel Vehicle)
All EVs are AFVs, whether entirely (BEVs) or partially (HEVs and PHEVs) electric. An AFV is simply any automobile that does not use gasoline or diesel as fuel. Alternative fuels include, but are not limited to: electricity, compressed natural gas, qualified natural gas, Hydrogen, various non-petroleum oils.
ZEV (Zero Emissions Vehicle)
A zero emissions vehicle is any automobile that does not emit carbon dioxide or any tailpipe pollutants from its “on-board” source of power. Only BEVs qualify as ZEVs from the EV category because PHEVs and HEVs emit carbon dioxide when they utilize their internal combustion engines to power their electric motors. In many states, including Georgia, ZEV owners are eligible for a one-time income tax credit.
LEV (Low Emissions Vehicle)
An LEV is any automobile that emits carbon dioxide and other tailpipe pollutants from its on-board power source to an extent at or below a standard set by a government. LEV standards vary from state to state but the commonality is that all LEVs emit fewer pollutants than traditional gasoline or diesel powered automobiles. Various states, including Georgia, provide tax incentives for LEVs though these incentives are usually lower than they are for ZEVs. The subsidy is skewed to favor the adoption of ZEVs over LEVs, which, in the case of EVs, favors BEVs such as the LEAF over PHEVs and HEVs such as the VOLT and the Prius, respectively.