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Electric car terms: what do they mean?

Entering the magical world of electric vehicle ownership can be scary, but once you get used to it – and all the terms – everything starts to make sense

a black french bulldog sitting in the back of a car looking our the boot

There was once a time when transport terminology was limited to 'horse' and 'cart' - but the introduction of modern vehicles has seen this list of jargon expand.

Electric vehicles (EVs) especially have added a whole new dictionary when it comes to understanding the mechanics. PHEV, ESC, and CAZ are all standard terminology, along with plenty of other new bits of jargon that are new to a lot of us.

Laura Bailey, linguistics expert at Kent University, highlighted how we create names for new technologies in ways such as using similar phrases for inspiration, or by shifting the meaning of terms already in use.

She said: “Similar words for cars might be ‘carriage’ or indeed ‘car’ itself, which originally meant something like a cart. Or we might invent brand new words for brand new things, often by using Latin or Greek word-parts.“The phrases we use might develop and shift their meanings towards electric vehicle usage, or we might gain new ones as electric vehicles become more common – or perhaps another technology will overtake and become the norm instead, with its own vocabulary.”

Learn more about EV jargon in our guide.

Names for different vehicles:

BEV – Battery Electric Vehicle.

EV – Electric Vehicle.

PHEV – Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle.

PiV – Plug-In Vehicle (used to describe both EVs and PHEVs).

HEV – Hybrid Electric Vehicle.

Self-charging hybrid – This is a car with a petrol or diesel engine under the bonnet but with a hybrid power system that's charged through regenerative braking, or via the engine, which generates power to charge it.

Mild hybrid – A mild hybrid has a very small electric motor that assists the engine and does not have the capacity to power the car alone.

Range-extender – A range-extender vehicle runs all four wheels on electric power but has an onboard generator that charges and helps the battery along.

FCEV – ‘Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles’ run using hydrogen. These aren’t as common as electric vehicles, but there are a number of hybrid fuel stations dotted around the country for those who do drive them.

Types of electric vehicle charge connectors

Type 1 – A five-pin charger commonly found on American and Asian car brands.

Type 2 – A seven-pin plug that's shaped differently to a Type 1 and is the most popular connector across European car makers’ electric vehicles.

CCS 1 – This is most commonly found in North America and can charge up to 350kW.

CCS 2 – The CCS 2 has the same 350kW power output as the CCS 1 but is most commonly found across Europe.

CHAdeMO – This is the name of a fast-charging brand that's most popularly used on the Nissan Leaf and Toyota Prius.

Tesla – Unlike most other electric vehicle makers, Tesla has its own system to charge its vehicles. The current Tesla Type 2 charger is compatible with a CCS adapter so you can use other chargers, but if you can, we’d always recommend hooking up to one of Tesla’s superchargers.

UK three-pin plug – Alternatively, if you don’t have access to any fancy wall box chargers or public superchargers, then a three-pin plug is always an option. Sure, it’s slower to charge but it still does the job... eventually.

Electric car charging speeds

Slow charging - Usually between 2.3kW and 3kW charging.

Fast charging - Charging delivered at rates between 7 to 25kW.

Rapid charging - Any charging that's delivered at rates of 43kW and above.

Ultra-rapid charging - Charging delivered at rates up to 350kW.

Car tech and mechanics

ESC (electronic stability control) - a safety system that applies the brakes to a specific wheel when loss of steering is detected.

ACC (adaptive cruise control) - the ESC takes over the speed management of the vehicle and can sense traffic ahead to adjust the speed of your car.

ABS (anti-locking braking system) - this system prevents the locking of your car's wheels if you need to use the emergency brakes.

A map showing the expanded ULEZ area in London

Useful electric vehicle jargon

Range anxiety – Worrying about your electric vehicle running out of charge.

Vehicle to Grid (V2G) – The technology that enables the energy to be transferred from the car’s battery back into the power grid.

WLTP – Worldwide Harmonised Light vehicles Test Procedure, which is the global standard for determining the levels of pollutants, C02 emissions and fuel economy of a car.

NEDC – New European Driving Cycle, which refers to exhaust emissions and fuel consumption measurements.

RPH – ‘Range Per Hour’, which is the metric used to measure the charging of an EV.

Lithium-ion – A type of rechargeable battery that's most commonly used in electric cars and phones, laptops, tablets etc.

Solid state – A new type of battery that we expect to see in EVs from 2025, which promise to last significantly longer than lithium-ion batteries.

ULEZ – The Ultra Low Emissions Zone in London (and soon to be other places), in which you have to pay to drive your car if it isn’t compliant.

CAZ – Clean Air Zones were established in certain areas with the purpose of improving air quality by discouraging the number of polluting vehicles allowed.

ZEV – Zero Emission Vehicle, which is another term used to describe an electric vehicle or a car that doesn’t emit any tailpipe emissions.

ICE - Internal combustion engines are the typical fuel-powered set-ups in traditional cars. These use petrol or diesel to get moving.

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