Saturday, March 10, 2012

Electric Lingo: Talking the talk of electric cars

Have you ever been ICE’d?  Do you have an EVSE with a J1772 connector?  Do you even have an EV?  Ever suffer Range Anxiety (“RA”)?  How’s your regen?  You using 240 or 120—ever pre-condition?  Have a Range Extender?  

If you have no idea what I am talking about, then join the club.  I didn’t either until my recent decision to take part in the BMW Active E field trial.  By listening to those who have been in the electric car arena far longer than I have been, you start to pick up on their foreign language of terms and acronyms.  And like any language, it separates the natives from the foreigners in this electric car world. 

But if you are going to keep score, you have to learn the language.  So here is a translation of the terms I have deciphered so far (which I’m sure only just scratches the surface):

ICE – an acronym that stands for Internal Combustion Engine (the dreaded gas-powered cars).  Derivations include “ICE’d” as in, “someone ICE’d the EVSE."  This is by far one of my favorite terms.

EV – Electric vehicle (you should have known this one).  The next category is a bit harder.

EV derivations: ZEV -- zero emission vehicles, PEVs -- plug-in electric vehicles, ILEV -- inherently low emission vehicles (which usually include pure EVs and CNG vehicles (compressed natural gas)), PZEV -- partial zero emission vehicles (hybrids).  The wonderfully confusing world of acronyms--can you add any others?  

EVSE – Electric vehicle supply equipment—refers to the charging equipment used to recharge the batteries on an EV.

J1772 Connector – the most modern connector used on EVSE's, see photo below:

Range Anxiety (“RA”) – fear of running out of battery power before reaching an EVSE. 

Regen or Regeneration – the regenerative braking function found on all electric and hybrid cars.  EV’s actually produce electric power on their own when slowing down or braking by capturing the energy generated by the moving car.  When referring to “Regen” people mean the process by which regenerative braking kicks-in, which occurs either when depressing the brakes or when taking your foot off of the acceleration pedal (as is the case with the Active E).

240 vs. 120 – Type of power source being used to recharge your EV.  120 volt is the typical power outlet in your home.  The Active E, for example, comes with a 120 volt power cord that will allow charging from a regular power socket.  But 120 is far slower in recharging the batteries.  A 240 volt outlet, however is the typical power sources used by EVSE’s and it allows a much faster charge time because it delivers far more power to the batteries. 

Range Extender – an on-board gas motor that allows the electric motor to continue operating after the battery has depleted its charge.  In the case of an all-electric car like the Active E, the only “range extender” available is a tow truck.

Pre-conditioning – the process of using the EVSE power source to warm-up the batteries before the EVSE is unplugged and the car is used.  The batteries provide the most range for an EV when they are operating at their optimum temperature, around 70 degrees or so.

This is just the beginning.  I hope to become completely fluent in electric car dialect as soon as possible.  Feel free to add the terms I don’t have yet, or just tell me your favorites.  Whatever you do, never ICE an EVSE.


  1. You have to add SOC (State of Charge) to that for sure, it's very commonly used. Also I'd go with PHEV (plug in hybrid vehicle) more so that PEV for the derivations, I think that's more commonly used. Nice post though!

  2. Thanks for your help, Tom. I hadn't figured out SOC yet, nice addition. Same with PHEV.

  3. Love this Post! It breaks the lingo down and makes it simple to understand for everyone.
    I'll add MPGe and MPK (miles per kilowatt)

    Enjoy the ActiveE!


  4. Thanks Peder. I have learned a lot from electric car veterans like you. Thanks for the addition terms!

  5. Here's another addition, BEV = Battery Electric Vehicle, which means a 100% electric vehicle, as opposed to a hybrid or plug-in hybrid--both of which have gas engines too.

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