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Hybrid and Plug-In Electric Vehicle Basics

August 20, 2013 - 9:13am

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Photo of hands holding a battery pack (grey rectangular box) for a hybrid electric vehicle.Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), and all-electric vehicles (EVs)—also called electric drive vehicles collectively—use electricity either as their primary fuel or to improve the efficiency of conventional vehicle designs.

HYBRID ELECTRIC VEHICLES

Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) are powered by an internal combustion engine or other propulsion source that can be run on conventional or alternative fuel. Hybrids also have an electric motor that uses energy stored in a battery to help power the vehicle. Because of the use of the electric motor, HEVs typically have a better fuel economy rating than their conventional vehicle counterparts.

For more information, see hybrid electric vehicles on the Alternative Fuels Data Center or compare them side-by-side at FuelEconomy.gov.

PLUG-IN HYBRID ELECTRICS

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles use batteries to power an electric motor and use another fuel, such as gasoline or diesel, to power an internal combustion engine or other propulsion source. Using electricity from the grid to run the vehicle some or all of the time reduces operating costs and petroleum consumption, relative to conventional vehicles. PHEVs might also produce lower levels of emissions, depending on the electricity source.

For more information, see plug-in hybrid electric vehicles on the Alternative Fuels Data Center or compare models to one another at FuelEconomy.gov.

All-ELECTRIC VEHICLES

All-electric vehicles use a battery to store the electrical energy that powers the motor. EVs are sometimes referred to as battery electric vehicles (BEVs). EV batteries are charged by plugging the vehicle into an electric power source. Although most U.S. electricity production contributes to air pollution, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency categorizes all-electric vehicles as zero-emission vehicles because they produce no direct exhaust or emissions. All-electric vehicles can produce almost no emissions if you derive your power from a renewable source, such as solar or wind.

For more information, see all-electric vehicles on the Alternative Fuels Data Center or compare models side-by-side at FuelEconomy.gov.

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