Battery electric vehicles

Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are 'pure electrics' — they're powered only by electrical energy stored in the battery. A BEV has no exhaust pipe or exhaust pipe emissions.

BEV charging

To charge a BEV, you plug it into an external electricity source such as a regular electrical socket, a dedicated charging unit or a public charging station.

The battery recovers and stores energy generated when the car brakes, a system known as regenerative braking.

A battery EV is best if you:

  • Mostly travel within battery range
  • Can charge overnight at home or at work
  • Have off-street parking and access to a plug
  • Want an economical second car
  • Sit in traffic a lot
  • Want low running costs.

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) have two motors — an electric motor and battery that can be charged from an external power supply, and an internal combustion engine fuelled by petrol or diesel.

Most drive in EV-only mode until most of the power stored in the battery is used, then the petrol/diesel engine automatically takes over.

PHEV charging

Regenerative braking charges the battery in both modes. During heavy acceleration, such as driving fast up a steep hill, the two motors work together.

Some PHEVs use a small petrol engine (a range extender) to generate electricity and power the electric motor once the battery charge decreases to a certain point.

The range of a PHEV in EV-only mode varies significantly between models. Some can only do 15-20km while some newer models can do 60km or more.

A PHEV is best if you:

  • Often need to drive beyond the battery range
  • Need the car for a mix of long and short trips
  • Can charge overnight at home or at work
  • Have off-street parking and access to a plug
  • Sit in traffic a lot.

What about hybrids?

Hybrid cars are more fuel efficient than a comparable petrol car, and produce fewer carbon emissions — but are not electric vehicles.

They use petrol or diesel to power a combustion engine, which works in combination with a battery or on-board electric motor. The battery is charged by the combustion engine, and energy is captured when the vehicle brakes or decelerates (a system called regenerative braking).

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