Facts About Electric Cars

Here are some quick facts about electric cars. This rundown of information will help you understand what an electric car is, what to expect from them, and how soon you'll have one available to you.

Types of EVs

Electric vehicles come in several types. In cars, there are both neighborhood electric vehicles (NEV) and road-ready or highway-ready cars.

In general, an NEV is capable of speeds up to 25mph or so and is limited to city-only use and the same roads and byways that a bicycle would be.

Highway-ready EVs are capable of going anywhere a regular car of the same type could go - roads, highways, etc. They have speeds over 65mph (often much more) and the same safety features any other car would have.

All EVs use electric motors to move the car. Some store the power to run the motor(s) in batteries, others in fuel cells, and some in combustion engines as generators - as either hybrids or range-extended hybrids.

What Is a BEV, a Hybrid, and a Plug-in?

BEV stands for battery electric vehicle and is a car that specifically uses batteries as its only power storage medium. The Nissan Leaf is an example of a BEV.

A hybrid like the Toyota Prius uses its combustion engine for all or part of its propulsion as well as to charge its (often limited) batteries.

A plug-in usually refers to a vehicle that can plug in to charge its batteries but may have another means of charging itself while running (usually a gas or diesel engine). The Chevrolet Volt is a plug-in.

Charging and Range

Most electric vehicles are capable of charging off of the grid (hybrids are an exception) by plugging into a regular outlet or special charging station. Most vehicles using lithium-ion batteries allow them to run to 10-20% capacity before declaring them "empty." This retention of power allows the batteries to last long and have an easier time taking a charge.

Charging times can vary, but are usually 5-9 hours for a full charge, depending on voltage and battery bank size.

The range of an EV can also be very variable. The Tesla Roadster (a BEV) has a range of up to 200 miles per charge while the Chevrolet Volt has a battery-only range of about 41 miles and nearly 400 total when its combustion engine is used.


In general, EVs have the same performance characteristics as do standard gasoline or diesel cars. Many have the same performance as sports or higher-end, tuned vehicles. This is because of the nature of electric propulsion, which gives full power from 0mph whereas combustion engines require "buildup" and have limited, optimal RPM ranges for torque output.


Currently, several vehicles are available nationally as electrics. The Toyota Prius hybrid is available all over the country. The Nissan Leaf has limited availability and the Chevrolet Volt just opened up to national sales. Other vehicles such as the Tesla Roadster and Fisker Karma are available now as well, though in limited numbers.

This site follows the emergence, application and development of transportation innovation. Reference to manufacturers, makes and models, and other automotive-related businesses are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement by FutureCars.com.