7 things you should know about electric cars
Explaining Battery Electric, Hybrid Electric & Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles.
What is covered:
- Electric Vehicle basics
- What is an EV?
- Types of Electric Vehicle
- How does electric car charging work?
- Electric Vehicle range
- How long does it take to charge an electric car?
- Electric Vehicle charge times
The industry can be awash with abbreviations and technical terminology, so let’s get things straight, an EV is a shortened acronym for an Electric Vehicle. And to be even clearer, an EV is any vehicle with an electric motor. Although for accuracy and posterity, we must add that a Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle (HFCV) also has an electric motor but is not called an EV, but don’t worry about those here. We use Electrical Vehicles because they can be a car, fleet, train and underwater vessels or even an electric aircraft. However, most commonly, we are referring to cars. But what are they, and what do you need to know about them?
1. Electric Vehicle basics
Traditionally, cars are powered by petrol or diesel, using an internal combustion engine. These are often referred to as ICEs. An ICE is an engine that generates power from the heat created through the burning of petrol, that is why they produce pollution that in turn causes CO2 emissions (unfortunately, we are all too familiar with this now).
Electric Vehicles do not use petrol, instead they have an electric motor which is more commonly powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, although some use lead acid or nickel metal hydride batteries. This is why when compared to an ICE, EVs are an environmentally friendly choice, because they use little or no fossil fuels. Sounds easy enough, right? But did you know that there are actually three types of electric vehicles?
2.Types of Electric Vehicle
There are different types of electric vehicles designed to meet different driving needs. The type, most commonly associated with EVs, is the Battery Electric Vehicle or “BEV.” But you should know that there are also Hybrid Electric Vehicles “HEV” and Plug-in Electric Vehicles “PHEV”. We go into more detail below.
What is a Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV)?
So, what is a Battery Electric Vehicle? A BEV does not have a petrol or diesel engine, they are charged exclusively by electricity. The energy used to power the electric motor, and hence the car, comes from the battery. BEVs are favoured for city driving, among other things, as they produce zero emissions and therefore do not have an exhaust. They are also very quiet. Have you ever been crept up on by a silent car? That will have been a BEV.
BEVs are convenient as they can be charged at home overnight (or on-the-go). This kind of charging can provide enough range for most average to long journeys. The distance you are able to travel on a single charge, also known as the “range” varies between BEV models and age, but generally they can travel anywhere from 120 to 650 kms. For context, on Google Maps, London to Edinburgh is roughly 650 kms. BEVs are overwhelmingly the most popular option among current EV drivers. In fact, our Electric Vehicle Driver Survey report highlighted that 76% of respondents say their next vehicle will be a BEV.
Examples of BEVs include the Tesla Model 3, the Kia NIRO EV and Hyundai Ioniq 5
What is a Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV)?
For those who can’t choose, there is an alternative. Rather than relying solely on an electric motor, Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles or “PHEVs” offer a mixture of battery and petrol (or diesel) power. The batteries can be charged in the same way as you would a BEV, by plugging them in.
On a full charge, these EVs will have enough range to complete a daily commute on electric, but you should not expect much more than 65 kms. However, because they have both a petrol engine and an electric battery, once the electric has depleted, the vehicle reverts to hybrid mode and relies on its petrol engine. Some people consider these as a stepping stone to going fully electric, as they have the electric functionality for shorter journeys and the safety net of a conventional engine for those longer trips.
Examples of PHEVs include the Mercedes C300e, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Volvo XC60 Recharge and Lynk & Co 01
What is a Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV)?
There’s also another type of EV called a “Hybrid Electric Vehicle” “HEV” or just Hybrid. Unlike a PHEV, you cannot plug an HEV into the mains. Instead, the battery is charged through regenerative braking and by the internal combustion engine. That is why the internal combustion petrol engine (ICE) is still the main power source.
Whilst in some HEVs, the ICE only recharges the battery, in some, it both recharges the electric battery and drives the transmission. The battery is significantly smaller, so you shouldn’t expect to achieve any more than a couple of kilometres. Either way, HEVs are petrol powered cars that emit much lower emissions than a typical petrol fuelled car, so they’re great for environmentally conscious drivers. As well as being environmentally friendly, less fuel dependent and have a higher resale value, HEVs (like other EV models) also qualify for a 100% discount on the London Congestion Charge.
Examples include the Toyota Prius (most famous), Clio hybrid and Lexus NX300h
3.How does electric car charging work?
Charging an electric car is actually quite straightforward, however there are a few different types of chargers and locations at which you can do this. EU law states that your EV must have a charging cable and compatible plug. The exact plug type and connector will vary between vehicle and country, though. The most common public places to charge are on-the-go at forecourts, like Shell or at destinations like car parks, supermarkets or shopping centres.
To be able to start a charging session with a public charge point, you need either an active charge card or key fob. We also advise you to download the Shell Recharge app. In public, you must make the charge point aware you wish to begin a charge. In public, you can start a charge by tapping the charge point with your Shell Recharge card, or using a contactless payment card. At some providers, you can also do this through the Shell Recharge app. The next step is to plug in and then activate your charge. When it’s ready, you end the charge session the same way you started it.
4. How does electric car charging at home work?
EV charging still predominantly occurs at home. Whilst you can charge an EV using a standard domestic 3-pin plug, it will take significantly longer (x3 times that of most home charge points), it is not advised. If you must, as a last resort, it is recommended that you plug straight into the wall rather than with an extension cable. Although the driver report published by Delta EE reports that a quarter of respondents still use a regular or reinforced socket, to most effectively charge your car at home, it’s worth installing a dedicated home charge point to your driveway.
As of 2022, 58% of EV drivers now use this kind of private charge point, an 8% rise from 2021. The main motivations for this are improved convenience, faster charging speeds and improved safety. Whatever the specifics of your personal charging needs are, installing either one of our two models, the Connect and Advanced, will help to make sure you always leave the house sufficiently charged.
5. What is the range of an Electric Vehicle?
Before investing in an electric car, we understand there will be concerns to address. The one we hear most about is what we call “range”, in other words, how far you can travel. This year's Electric Vehicle Driver Survey report further highlighted this, with 57% of its respondents saying improved battery range is the area they most wish to see grow. Despite this yearning, batteries have become more powerful and increasingly cheaper, meaning their range is ever-growing and improving. Way back when, at the genesis of EVs, Nissan’s best-selling EV, the LEAF, had a maximum range of around 175 kms.
Today, Nissan’s newest EV, ARIYA, has a max range of 499 kms (WLTP). The average distances based on calculations by the Electric Vehicle Database forecast that the longest distance with a single charge is 695 km, with the average being 327 km. The mid-range and medium priced new Hyundai Kona, Volkswagen ID.3 Tour, and Kia EV6 can reach 250-483 kms on a single charge too. We must note here, though, that the actual range is highly dependent on many conditions such as weather, temperature, weight of passengers and luggage and the roads.
As discussed above, the distance you can travel is largely dependent on the type of EV you own, a BEV being able to do the longest. This of course is also dependent on the model and the age of the vehicle. Understandably, the range is always going to create uncertainty for EV drivers and concerns about finding charging stations. However, the world is moving at a rapid pace. Based on its trajectory thus far and government legislation encouraging change in this area, it's only going to grow and improve more and more. But remember, you can easily stop and charge on-the-go with any of the 300,000 charge points available on the Shell Recharge network.
6. How long does it take to charge an electric car?
If you’re thinking about switching to an EV, we understand that the time it takes to charge an electric car can also be a worry. As mentioned, charging an electric car can be done at home or on-the-go, using public charging stations. Shell Recharge offers rapid chargers, which are 50kW chargers and typically charge most EVs to 0-80% in approximately 30 minutes. Ultra-rapid 175kW chargers are the fastest way to charge your electric vehicle and can deliver power up to three times faster. Remember, faster charging comes at a cost! Most drivers tend to “top up” their charge, rather than waiting for their battery to deplete completely before recharging. Charging time will be impacted by many factors like how big your battery is, how fast your charging point is or even the weather. Most homes have single-phase grid connections enabling speeds of 7.4 kW, this means, depending on the battery size, an average car will take 4-8 hours to fully charge at home.
7. EV Batteries
Another important factor to consider when researching your next EV is the battery’s estimated range on a full charge. An EV’s battery capacity is expressed in terms of kilowatt-hours, which is abbreviated as kWh. Size does matter here. Choosing an EV with a higher kWh can be compared to buying a car with a larger petrol tank. Simply put, it means you’ll be able to drive further before needing to refuel. However, not all battery specs are the same, and the car's range not only depends on the size of its battery but also how efficiently the car uses that energy.
Then you must consider speed, the speed at which you can charge the battery of an electric car will always be determined by the weakest link. The three components that will affect speed are: charging station, charging cable and the on-board charger (the battery built into the car). The size of an electric car's battery size will have an impact on how long it takes to charge, the larger the battery, the longer it will take to charge. Battery capacities of current EVs range from 17.6 kWh in the Smart EQ ForTwo with a range of 94kms and go up to 100 kWh in the Tesla Model S and Model X that can run for over 480kms before needing a charge.
Car and charging capacity
A car’s charging capacity can also have a big impact on the speed. Not all electric cars accept the same charging power. Fast charging normally uses an AC (Alternating Current). Whilst in theory the max charging power is 22 kW, most new EVs can charge on 7.4 kW or 11 kW depending on the number of phases connected to their charge point. However, the reality in the UK is, 7.4kW is common for home charge points and this is more than sufficient. The same applies to DC (Direct Current) charging, while some cars may be able to take up to 270kW ultra-fast DC charging (Porsche Taycan), many are limited to much lower power speeds, commonly between 70 kW and 240 kW. These are most commonly found at motorway service stations.
Battery State of Charge (SoC)
When using DC charging, another important factor that will affect an EV’s charging speed is the battery’s State of Charge (SoC). That is because the battery needs to be protected at high SoC. When charging at a higher SoC the battery Voltage is higher, so you would increase the charge point output for the same charging speed at a lower SoC. Due to their chemistry, batteries can accept more power at lower charge levels. As they get closer to 100% SoC, the charging power, and thus charging speed, will reduce. So, whilst charging an electric car from 10% to 80% might only take a few minutes, charging from 70% to 100% will be comparatively longer.
This is just a basic introduction to the types of vehicles, how to charge them and how long it might take. We hope this informs you sufficiently and gives you a good overview of what you must consider before making a decision. Whatever you choose, it’s always best to do your research. Especially as we approach the 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars. Each model and type has pros and cons, and, depending on the features, will be better suited to certain lifestyles. We suggest drilling down to your needs and priorities and then working out from there. Read more interesting information, like everything you need to know about home charging and smart charging regulations in the UK on our website.