Electric car terminology

The energy transition is turning all spheres of the automotive industry upside down. When it comes to automobiles, everything must be reviewed: their design, their construction, their marketing, their driving and their maintenance. With the electric car comes a whole process of re-educating consumers who are used to using the same technical jargon for over a century.

How to navigate this world of kilowatts it’s from charging stations ? Above all, how to properly popularize the information without saying something misleading? This glossary will try to guide you better through the fascinating world of electric vehicles.

Architecture dedicated to electricity

It is an automotive platform that was designed from the ground up to support an electric vehicle. In other words, a vehicle built on such a platform does not offer any version of a combustion engine. Those platformsare generally stiffer and better absorb the instantaneous torque produced by an electric motor. They are also more soundproof and their mechanics are quieter.

The dedicated architecture is also designed around a battery installed in the floor of the vehicle. Thus, it maximizes cabin space and incorporates a more powerful electrical system, designed to operate an electric vehicle.

Kilowatts (or kW)

The kilowatt is a unit of power. This value will be given to an electric motor in particular. For example, the engine of a Chevrolet Bolt EV develops a power of 149 kilowatts, which corresponds to 200 horsepower.

The kilowatt unit can also be assigned to the charging power. For example, a level 3 fast charging station can produce 60, 100, 150, 200 or even 350 kilowatts of power. However, when we say that an electric car is capable of receiving up to 200 kilowatts on a compatible terminal, this represents the charging power it can collect. However, it is important to specify that a charging station cannot transfer all its energy if the car is not compatible and cannot receive it.

Kilowatt-hour (or kWh)

It is the capacity of the battery to be able to supply an amount of energy for one hour. For example, the battery in the Chevrolet Bolt EV has a capacity of 65 kilowatt-hours. That means it can deliver 65 kilowatts of power for an hour. Based on the fact that the engine of a Bolt EV develops a power of 149 kilowatts, we can estimate that if the Bolt EV were running at full speed without stopping, it would take 26 minutes to discharge its battery (65 kWh divided by 149 kW x 60 minutes).

Usable kilowatt-hour

This is the part of the battery accessible for operating the vehicle and its accessories. Car manufacturers do not exploit the full capacity of a battery for reliability and longevity. For example, the Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV has a battery with a useful capacity of 108.4 kilowatt-hours. In fact, it is a battery whose gross capacity is calculated at 120 kilowatt-hours.

Kilowatt-hour per 100 km (kWh/100 km)

It is a unit of energy consumption. It will designate the consumption of an electric vehicle over a distance of 100 kilometers, depending on several factors. Just like a thermal vehicle, the consumption of an electric vehicle is never constant.

It is also possible to measure the real range of an electric vehicle according to its energy consumption. For example, if a vehicle whose battery capacity is rated at

60 kilowatt-hours registers a consumption of 20 kilowatt-hours/100 kilometers, just divide 60 by 20 and multiply the answer by 100. In this case, we get a real range of 300 kilometers.

Level 1 terminal (wall socket)

This is a standard wall outlet with a supply voltage of approximately 120 volts. It is not recommended to connect an electric vehicle to this outlet due to the huge charging time of up to 4 days!

However, for a plug-in hybrid vehicle, this outlet may work as its battery has a smaller capacity than an electric vehicle. So we talk about a charging time of approximately 10 to 12 hours.

Terminal level 2

It is an alternating current terminal (AC or AC) whose supply voltage is calculated at 240 volts and which generates a charging power of up to 20 kilowatts (this value varies according to the terminal model). These stations are often used at home or in public places and can take between 8 and 12 hours to fully charge an electric vehicle battery, or 3 to 4 hours for a plug-in hybrid.

Level 3 terminal (or fast terminal)

The level 3 fast terminal is a direct current (DC or DC) terminal whose supply voltage is 400 volts or more. This terminal can generate up to 350 kilowatts of power. It is usually reserved for public use due to its size and the voltage required to operate.

electrical autonomy

This is the ability of an electric vehicle to travel any distance. This value is expressed in kilometers (km) and varies depending on several factors: battery capacity, battery status, vehicle engine power, driver’s driving habits, weight on board, topography and ambient temperature, in particular.

The range advertised by a manufacturer is usually evaluated by Natural Resources Canada according to laboratory tests that aim to reproduce as accurately as possible an actual use. We invite you to read our column on the subject.

regenerative braking

This is the power reversal phenomenon that occurs when you release the accelerator of an electric vehicle. Instead of drawing energy from the battery, the electric motor generates it, which creates resistance and slows the vehicle down. This technology has evolved to provide varying levels of energy recovery and braking power to the point of bringing the vehicle to a complete stop. While it’s impossible to refuel an electric vehicle using this technology, it can help add a few extra miles of range.

Cab preheating

This is a process whereby the vehicle’s heating is activated remotely before driving. This is usually done from a mobile app connected to the vehicle. By preheating the vehicle while it’s plugged in, you avoid having to overcharge the battery to do so, maximizing an electric vehicle’s range in cold climates.

battery degradation

This is the term given to a battery that loses its energy density. The older a battery gets and the more it has been subjected to recharge cycles, the more it will show signs of degradation, such as lower charging power or even reduced autonomy. This phenomenon is caused by the cathode metals losing their ability to charge lithium ions within the electrolyte.

bad language habits

The 100% electric car does not exist!

A common mistake in electric vehicle language is using the phrase “100% electric”. In fact, this type of vehicle does not exist. By using this expression, certain manufacturers or certain automotive means will try to explain that the vehicle runs exclusively on electricity, that is, that it does not include any heat engine.

However, if a car were 100% electric, it could also be 90% electric or even 50% electric. Adding a numeric value to the description implies that other values ​​are possible.

Therefore, it is preferable to avoid this expression and say electric. Remember that there are already three terms to designate electrified vehicles: hybrids (combination of the heat engine and electric), rechargeable hybrids (plug-in hybrids that run only on electricity over short distances) and electric (vehicles that do not have internal combustion). motor and only runs on electricity).

Don’t confuse capacity and power

Some confuse the power and capacity principles of a battery. When a battery is said to have a capacity of 100 kilowatt-hours, this is the amount of energy it contains. So that doesn’t represent your power.

Remember that the role of a battery is not to generate energy, but to store it. That’s why it’s better to use the term “capacity” rather than “power” when talking about a battery.

A “big battery” changes absolutely nothing

The term “large battery” has nothing to do with its capacity or power or range of an electric vehicle. In fact, battery size is not directly proportional to its capacity. That’s why it’s preferable to avoid this expression, because the more batteries evolve, the more their energy density will increase and the more compact they will be!


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