The advent of the electric vehicle has given rise to an entire new vocabulary. It is common place to be swamped with abbreviations like EV, ICE, HEV, PHEV, BEV and FCEV. But what exactly is the meaning behind these acronyms and when can you use them like a seasoned electric vehicle tech?
ICE / EV
ICE is the abbreviation for our long-term friend and workhorse, the internal combustion engine. A global transition is underway from the noxious gas emitting internal combustion to the greener alternative known as the electric vehicle or EV for short.
A high efficiency diesel vehicle (ICE) can travel well over 1000 km on a single tank of fuel. This single tank of fuel can be replenished in under 5 minutes at almost any fuel outlet. The current state of EV technology permits an electric vehicle (EV) to travel far fewer kilometres on a single charge and can take several hours to fully charge the battery . eg, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV can travel only 170km and can take up to 14 hours to charge its battery using a conventional household power point.
Vehicle manufacturers have sought to bridge the gap between the ICE and EV technologies by creating power trains that trade off the inadequacies of each technology. Enter the hybrid electric vehicle or HEV for short.
The HEV plays off the strength of each technology by incorporating both an ICE and an EV power train. HEV vehicle traction power is provided by one of two propulsion alternatives. The first has traction power sourced directly from an electric motor eg, Chevy Volt and Toyota Prius. The traction motor uses electrical energy sourced from either the battery or an on-board generator driven by an ICE. The second of the propulsion alternatives has traction power provided by the simultaneous contribution of an electric motor and an internal combustion motor to the rotation of the drive train.
You may have heard the term “Serial” or “Parallel” HEV technology. Serial refers to the architecture whereby an ICE drives a generator. The electric power from the generator charges the battery which powers an electric motor which drives the wheels, eg Chevy Volt or Toyota Prius. Parallel refers to an alternative architecture in which the ICE and EV work concurrently, ie in parallel, in supplying power to the wheels eg, Honda Insight.
Let us not confuse the abbreviation PHEV (Parallel Hybrid Electric Vehicle) with the abbreviation PHEV (Plug in Hybrid Vehicle). Although sharing the same abbreviation, the first use refers to an architecture arrangement employing the ICE and EV whilst the second refers to the means by which an EV’s battery may be charged. Most EV’s can be charged in this way.
As on board battery technology evolves with ever improving battery chemistry characteristics, the power density equation is slowly shifting in favour of EV’s powered by battery alone giving rise to the BEV or Battery Electric Vehicle. The improvement in battery technology is breaking the traditional twin dependency upon the ICE and EV in providing traction power. An example is the Tesla series of electric vehicles.
Other technologies for storing/generating electrical energy are under early development. One such technology is the FCEV or Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle in which the battery is complimented or replaced with a hydrogen fuel cell. Currently there is limited production of FCEV’s as the infrastructure required to support this technology is not as wide spread as that which exists for the BEV or HEV.