Motorpoint’s electric car jargon buster – EV acronyms explained

16 February 2022 Blog

Don’t know your CCS from your elbow? Should you see a doctor about your V2G? Swot up on electric cars with our handy plain-English guide

Electric cars are, clearly, a huge part of our collective motoring future. But they can be a bit baffling if you’ve only ever owned petrol or diesel cars.

There are loads of new terms and acronyms that just didn’t exist 10 years ago, so join us for a quick run-through the most popular (and confusing) bits of electric car mumbo-jumbo.

AC

Alternating current. Power from the UK grid is AC, but electric cars store their power as direct current (DC). If you charge a car at home you’ll be feeding it AC power, which the car’s onboard converter changes to DC. Fast chargers tend to use DC, which can put more power into the battery more quickly. The fastest public AC chargers tend to max out at a charging rate of 43kW.

BEV

Battery electric vehicle. It’s just a fancy way of saying ‘electric car’. Not the same as a PHEV or a hybrid.

CCS

Combined charging system. It’s the type of plug you use to connect your car to a public fast charger. It has two parts to it, and you’ll often need to open a secondary flap on your car’s charging port to slot it in. Oo-er. If you’re using a CCS connector there’s a good chance you’re using a fast charger.

Chademo

A different (and older) type of DC rapid-charging plug, created in 2010 by Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi. It can technically provide up to 62.5kW of power. It’s used on the Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid, among others – and it’s not as common as CCS connectors. It stands for Charge de Move, if you want a boring fact for the pub.

DC

Direct current. Most fast chargers (often called DC fast chargers) use direct current to charge your car far more quickly than you otherwise could using AC. The latest DC fast chargers can pump power into your car at up to 350kW, which can fill a battery from empty in well under an hour. The only catch is that your car needs to support such charging speeds, and many EVs currently don’t.

Dual motor

A powerful electric car with two motors – usually one to power the front wheels and one to power the rear pair. Dual motor cars are technically four-wheel drive, and often accelerate incredibly quickly. Audi and Tesla also make triple-motor cars, for when you really need to make your passengers feel sick.

EV

Electric vehicle. An electric car (or van… or motorbike… or plane).

Fast chargers

A fast charger is usually classified as any DC charger that can charge at 50kW or above. Recently we’ve seen chargers introduced that can charge at 150kW and 350kW – but your car will have its own maximum charging rate that may well be below these figures. At the time of writing, only the Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6 and Porsche Taycan can charge faster than 150kW.

FCV

Fuel cell vehicle. This is an electric car that uses an onboard hydrogen fuel cell to create electricity – so you never need to plug it in. The only one on sale at the time of writing is the Toyota Mirai, and there are only a dozen or so hydrogen fuel pumps in the UK. They do have exhaust pipes, but the only thing that comes out is water and warm air. The main benefit of a hydrogen car over a traditional electric car is that filling it up with hydrogen takes about as long as filling up with petrol or diesel.

ICE

Internal combustion engine. This is any engine that’s powered by explosions, so any petrol, diesel or gas-powered car is referred to as an ICE car. If you find an electric car charging bay that has been thoughtlessly occupied by a petrol or diesel car, you can say that the charger has been ICEd. Your kids will think you’re ‘dope’ if you say this.

kWh

Kilowatt hours. This is the standard unit of measurement for an electric car’s battery size. The bigger the number of kWh in a battery, the more electricity it can store and – depending on how efficient the car is – the further you can drive on a charge. As a rough rule of thumb, you want a car with a 70+kWh battery pack if you want to travel more than 240 miles on a charge.

kW

Kilowatt. This is the standard unit for an electric motor’s power. The higher the kW rating of a car, the more power it has and the faster it’ll accelerate when you press the accelerator. 

Kilowatts are also used to demonstrate how quickly an electric car charger can charge your car. A charger rated at 50kW or higher is called a fast charger – some chargers can supply 150kW or even 350kW. The faster the charger, the less time you have to sit in your car trying everything on the Greggs menu.

PHEV

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. A car that uses a regular combustion engine (usually a petrol one) in conjunction with an electric motor and a small battery. PHEVs usually run on electric power at town speeds with the petrol engine kicking in at motorway speeds or when you accelerate hard. 

If you keep the battery charged and only do town journeys, you may rarely have to fill it up with petrol. PHEVs were originally designed to give people a taste of electric-car driving, but without any range anxiety (because the petrol engine can still take you hundreds of miles once the battery is flat… but that sort of misses the point of buying one).

Regenerative braking

Unlike regular combustion-engined cars, electric cars can be slowed down using their motor(s). Of course if you put your foot on the brake pedal you’ll also use the regular brakes, but there’ll always be an element of motor braking. This motor braking is called regenerative braking because it feeds energy back into the car’s battery. 

You can usually adjust the strength of an electric car’s regenerative braking, and in some cases you can even drive in ‘one pedal’ mode, where you don’t need to touch the brakes because the car slows down so much when you lift off the accelerator.

Regenerative braking is really hard to say quickly five times. Did you just try?

Single motor

An electric car with a single motor, either powering the front or the rear wheels. These are usually less expensive than dual motor cars and don’t accelerate as quickly. Single motor versions of cars usually have more driving range than dual motor cars.

SOC

State of charge. An indication of how much charge there is in your battery. Usually displayed on the dashboard as a percentage, and usually supplemented by a readout of how many miles you can drive with your current state of charge.

V2G

Vehicle to grid. Some electric cars (notably the Kia EV6 and Hyundai Ioniq 5) will let you plug an adapter into the car’s charging port which has a UK three-pin plug on it, allowing you to run electric appliances off your car, or even to charge another electric car (slowly). The big idea here is that you can put power back into your house if your car has more charge than you need – helping reduce domestic energy bills. 

WLTP - Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure

A standardised test procedure that gives a reasonably accurate idea of how far a car can drive on a full battery. 

Bear in mind that most cars will only be able to travel quite a bit less than their WLTP figures, because there are so many real-world variables. Cold weather will really reduce your car’s range, for example, as will driving like a frustrated teenager. If a car has a claimed range of 250 miles, it’s not uncommon to really get 200 miles in the real world.