Electric Cars

What is an Electric Car?

What is an Electric Car?

Electric cars have actually been around for longer than gasoline-powered cars. The first electric vehicle was a motorized carriage created by Scottish inventor Robert Anderson in the early 1830s. Unfortunately, the battery couldn't be recharged, so it was a bit of a novelty. Rechargeable batteries appeared in 1859 and in 1884, a man named Thomas Parker built a prototype electric vehicle. A few years later in 1887, William Morrison patented his electric car in Des Moines, Iowa, and the electric race was on.

While many companies tried their hand at putting EVs on the market, Henry Ford won the battle with his cheap-to-produce Model T and the world went gasoline car crazy... until now.

When people talk about electric cars today, they’re most likely referring to a battery electric vehicle (BEV). BEVs are just one variety of the broader electric vehicle (EV) universe. What sets BEVs apart is that they run purely on electricity. No gas required! BEVs are able to do this by storing energy in rechargeable batteries and using electric motors (at least one, maybe more) to power the vehicle.

There are two other types of electric cars that are commonplace here in North America: Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV) and Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV).

HEVs are gasoline vehicles that are assisted by the boost of a rechargeable battery but they don’t get plugged into a power source to recharge. Instead, HEVs recharge their batteries automatically as you drive. PHEVs, as the name implies, do have batteries that can be plugged in and charged. You can drive your plug-in hybrid around town for 28 to 60 miles, depending on the make and model of PHEV, before the gasoline engine kicks in. For a lot of people, that's enough range to get to work and back and to handle daily errands.

Acronyms aside for a minute, the world has come to know today’s most popular crop of electric vehicles as hybrids, plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars.

Wondering how electric cars work? Check out this guide next.

 Electric Vehicles (EV) Cheat Sheet  
Type of CarBEVHybrids 
NameBattery Electric VehicleHybrid Electric VehiclePlug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle
Fuel TypeBattery OnlyGas + BatteryGas + Battery
Fuel SourceChargerGas + Regenerative BrakingCharger + Gas + Regenerative Braking