Types of electric cars explained

How many different types of electric cars are there?

While there are several different types of electric cars, generally speaking, there are three main classes of EVs, they are:

  • Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) - powered solely by electricity

  • Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) - fueled by both electricity and petrol

  • Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) - chargeable vehicles powered by both petrol and electricity

Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs)

Also referred to as ‘pure electric’ cars or all-electric vehicles, BEVs are powered by electricity and nothing else. Forget about fuel tanks, engines or exhaust pipes because a BEV doesn’t have any of these. Instead, it uses an external outlet to recharge its battery. This also makes a BEV a plug-in vehicle producing zero tailpipe emissions.

When it comes to driving greener, a BEV is one of the most electric car lease deals you can choose.

Advantages of BEVs

  • Zero tailpipe emissions

  • Low charging costs

  • Cheap to service and maintain

  • Grants available to reduce purchase price

Disadvantages of BEVs

  • Expensive to buy

  • Limited range

  • Long re-charging times

  • Inconvenient to recharge (public charging network still developing)

Popular models include the BMW i3, Renault Zoe and Tesla Model 3.

Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs)

Being powered by both petrol (or diesel) and electricity, means hybrid electric vehicles offer a ‘best of both worlds approach’.

An HEV, or hybrid as it’s often called, starts out by using its electric motor. Then, the internal combustion engine kicks in when it reaches higher speeds or when there’s a heavier weight to pull. Meanwhile, the electric battery is recharged through regenerative braking. Unlike a BEV or PHEV, it can’t be plugged in to be recharged.

Advantages of HEVs

  • More fuel-efficient

  • Fast re-fuelling

  • Lower refuelling cost

  • Suitable for longer journeys

Disadvantages of HEVs

  • Not emission-free

  • Can be just as expensive to run as normal car

The Toyota Camry and Honda Civic are strong hybrid models.

Plug-in Hybrids (PHEVs)

Combining the best aspects of BEVs and HEVs, plug-in hybrid vehicles can be charged with an external charger but also have a 2nd combustion-powered motor.

Unlike a regular hybrid, the fact that a PHEV can be plugged-in means it provides a -zero-emission range, which is when a car emits less than 75g/km of CO2. You can read more about electric car ranges here.

PHEVs can also travel at lower speeds for a shorter distance before the traditional combustion engine is activated. Some models can travel as far as 40 miles without gas power.

Advantages of PHEVs

  • Zero-emissions range

  • Cheaper to run (compared to straight hybrids)

  • Suitable for longer journeys

  • Fast re-fuelling

  • Grants available to reduce purchase price

Disadvantages of PHEVs

  • Not emission-free

  • Inconvenient to recharge

  • Can be just as expensive to run as normal car

From the Audi E-tron to the Volvo XC90, there are several great brand models when it comes to choosing a PHEV.

Still trying to make sense of the different EV types and how they work? Find out more about how electric cars work and which electric car is right for you and your lifestyle so you can choose the best one for your needs.

Alternative types of EVs

Alongside the different types of electric motors available are alternative power sources. These include multiple engines working together, and hydrogen fuel cells. Among the alternative types of vehicles available that run on these sources are.


These types of vehicles are made up of a traditional petrol engine, an electric motor and plug-in battery.

A car model with this capacity uses a combination of all three fuel sources to run. How does this work on a journey? The E-rev will prioritise using its electric power first and only relies on the combustion engine as backup. Regardless, the wheels will always be operated by the electric motor, unlike a hybrid.

In theory, this makes an e-rev relatively eco-friendly. In fact, it’s possible to produce less than 20g/km of CO2 emissions driving one, far below the EU target rate. The reality is this rate will vary greatly from model to model.

Advantages of e-Revs

  • Zero-emissions range

  • Cheaper to run (compared to straight hybrids)

  • Suitable for longer journeys

Disadvantages of e-Revs

  • Not as eco-friendly as pure EVs

  • Inconvenient to recharge

Hydrogen-fuel cell vehicles

Considered hybrids in their own way, HFCVs run on a fuel stack that converts hydrogen to electricity. This reaction allows the wheels to be powered similar to how they are on an e-rev. Comprised of a battery (ultracapacitor) and a fuel cell that does not require charging, an HFCV uses its parts to create electricity while water is emitted from the tailpipe.

HFCs require refuelling at petrol stations, but with hydrogen instead of petrol. An HFCV is relatively quick to refill. They also boast a decent range, roughly 300 miles between refills. This means that unlike standard EVs, they are less limiting when it comes to travelling longer distances on electricity alone.

Advantages of HFCVs

  • Quick to refill

  • Less limited range (compared to other EVs)

  • Low-emissions/Eco-friendly

Disadvantages of HFCVs

  • Hydrogen fuel not as widely available

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