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Electric car jargon buster

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Click on a term below to bust the jargon on all things electric…

A vehicle that’s 100% powered by electricity, and needs to be plugged in to charger. Also, sometimes called an electric vehicle (EV).

This is the name for the control electronics that look after the battery pack. It keeps the cells in the battery at the right voltage and temperature, and makes sure that the current that goes through them isn’t too high. 

At rapid chargers you’ll generally find the cable you need to power up already attached. There are two kinds of rapid charging plugs – CCS and CHAdeMO.

Rapid chargers convert AC electricity to DC before it reaches your car, which means the juice goes straight into your battery so it can charge much faster.

You’ll find CHAdeMO on a handful of older cars, but you’ll see CCS on most electric cars today.

Charging is the electric version of fuelling up your car. And a destination charge point is when you use your own cable, plug in, leave (usually at places you are at for a good amount of time) and come back when you’re ready.

A vehicle that’s 100% powered by electricity will need to be plugged in to charge. Also, sometimes called a battery electric vehicle (BEV).

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This can mean any car that has some kind of electric credential. So everything from a fully electric car that needs to be plugged in to charge to a mild hybrid. This is a very basic hybrid vehicle with no electric-only range – it’s 100% fuelled and powered by petrol or diesel.

Sometimes called a hydrogen car, or hydrogen fuel cell car. It powers the wheels using electricity, just like an electric car. The electricity comes from a hydrogen tank in the car, this then creates through a chemical reaction of mixing hydrogen and oxygen.

A standard three-pin cable that you can use in any normal household plug socket to charge your electric car. This isn’t a great way to charge an electric car though.

100% refuelled using petrol, but it can use some of that petrol to charge up a small battery that lets you drive a handful of miles using electricity.

The battery is mainly there to grab energy from regenerative braking – a clever system that recycles power back into the battery when you brake, just like in an electric car. 

ICE stands for Internal Combustion Engine. So an ICE vehicle is just your everyday petrol or diesel car.  

Units of electricity, which you can think of like a litre of fuel for your car.

You’d check the price of a litre of fuel at the garage. And with electric cars you check the price of a unit of electricity.

A very basic hybrid vehicle with no electric drive. It’s 100% fuelled and powered by petrol or diesel.    

A mild hybrid generally has a small electric motor and can often use regenerative braking, which recycles power back into the battery when you brake.

The electric motor can also sometimes help the petrol engine a bit with power – but it can never power the car by itself, unlike regular hybrids.

Plug-in hybrid EVs can be powered by petrol, diesel or electricity, with the option to plug it in to recharge the battery.

The battery is normally much smaller than in an electric car – it’s only able to go about 20 to 30 miles on each charge.

The petrol engine does the heavy lifting on long journeys and they can take quite a while to charge.

How many miles an electric car can go on one fully charged battery.

An electric car that also has a petrol engine to charge the battery. You get some of the performance upsides of electric but often not as many miles as pure electric.

Most newer electric cars can rapid charge, which you do when you’re out and about – similar to how you fill up with petrol or diesel.

It’s a little more expensive than charging at home but it can be quick, charging your car in minutes rather than hours.

So you’d tend to rapid charge on a long journey or if you’re in a rush. 

Electric cars cleverly recycle power back into the battery when you brake.

As soon as you ease your foot off the accelerator, you’ll feel the car slow much quicker than other cars.

This gives you more miles and creates less wear on your brake pads, so it’s a handy money-saver.  

Real world range is how far your electric car will actually go on a single charge. This will vary depending on your driving style and weather conditions. Often the real world range of a vehicle will be less than the figure provided by the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP), the official test of fuel efficiency for all cars. 

To use and pay for some public chargers, you’ll sometimes need a special card, called an RFID card (radio frequency identification card).

You tap this against the charger to start and stop your charging session.

Some companies offer a scheme called salary sacrifice. This helps you save a bit of money when leasing an electric car.

Salary sacrifice works when lease payment is taken from your full salary, before tax and National Insurance (NI) is taken off. This means your gross (pre-tax) salary is lower, so you pay less tax and NI.

Although it sounds great, you should check this is right for you. For example, it can affect benefits or mortgage applications  because your take-home pay is lower. 

Learn more about salary sacrifice

This is just another name that some car manufacturers use for a hybrid electric vehicle.

The car doesn’t magically produce electricity out of thin air – it’s just talking about using the petrol engine to charge the battery and regenerative braking .

This is where it recycles power back into the battery when you brake and is normal in every electric car or hybrid, 100% fuelled by petrol and you can’t plug it in to charge.  

This is like your petrol or diesel gauge. It lets you know how full the battery is so you can keep an eye on how much you have left. 

This tells you how much capacity your battery has now, versus how much it had when it was new.  

These are kinds of charging plug. Nearly all UK public charge points have Type 2 sockets and you’ll usually use your own cable to connect your car, though some come with the cable already attached.

A few older cars have a Type 1 socket. But they also have a Type 1 to Type 2 cable for charging when you’re out and about, so you can plug in anywhere.  

Some urban areas have created zones where petrol and diesel cars have to pay a hefty admission fee or are even banned.

Often called Ultra Low Emission Zones or Zero Emission Zones.

A lab test that measures how efficient an electric car is, and how far it can go on one charge.

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