E-Mobility: A Glossary of Terms

If you are new to the world of e-mobility, or simply a seasoned pro in need of a little refresher on a key term or two, our straightforward glossary should give you all the definitions you need.

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Public charging points are vital for electric vehicle owners

All electric

These are any electric vehicles, which gain their motion through power generated by electric motors. Usually power obtained is from electric batteries, which are rechargeable through electric charging points

Battery

Most electric vehicles (see below), whether hybrid or all-electric in nature, require a battery to store electricity when it is not being driven and then tap into this supply when it hits the road.

Batteries consist of cells (usually at the moment lithium-ion cells) are used, these can be cylindrical, pouch or prismatic cells, depending upon the vehicle/manufacturer/model.

Capacity

This is typically talked about in relation to the battery. The capacity of the battery, expressed in kilowatt hours (kWh), will determine the range it can cover from a single charge. The higher the capacity, the greater the distance the vehicle will be able to travel before it needs to be plugged in again.

Charging Point

Also known as a charging station or charging infrastructure, this can refer to a variety of solutions which are used to connect electric vehicles to a power source and recharge their batteries when they are not in use. This can include wall mounted chargers installed in the home, as well as street level charging points which are usually found next to parking spaces.

Charging points are relatively commonplace in heavily populated areas, as well as at transport hubs such as service stations. In some cases, they also double up as a kind of battery bank, allowing cities to use electric vehicles which are being charged to make up for a shortfall in generation as necessary. The development of smart charging services are also breaking new ground, allowing for adjustments according to everything from demand to the availability of renewable energy resources.

Differential

Making differential gears for electric vehicles is essential as without these components, it would be impossible to turn corners smoothly. They account for the changes in wheel speed needed to make turns, since the inside wheels will be covering less distance than the outer set in this context.

Electric Motor

While a petrol or diesel-powered car will have a combustion engine at its heart, in the world of e-mobility, the electric motor is king. The most affordable, efficient vehicles will rely on a single electric motor, while higher performance models can rely on two or more motors of this type. Some even have one motor per wheel, although this is a rarity at the moment.

In terms of design, electric motors have the advantage of being far more durable and easier to maintain than combustion engines. They also offer more consistent and reliable performance, which gives them the edge in most everyday use cases.

Electric Urban Mobility

The concept of electric urban mobility involves ensuring the ability for citizens to be mobile in urban areas through e-mobility initiatives. Electric urban mobility takes a holistic approach to transport including:

  • Car alternatives – where possible alternatives to cars are sought such as e-scooters, e-biked, etc.
  • Encouraging use of trains – rather than use cars, the use of trains is highly encouraged

Outcomes of electric urban mobility are expected to be

  • A general embracing of e-mobility initiatives
  • Flexibility and manoeuvrability of transport solutions
  • Improvements to air quality
  • Improvements for transport mobility for the population, in particular removal of traffic jams

EV

This is the short-form way of referring to an electric vehicle. It not only covers passenger cars but can also encompass electric vans and trucks as well, so it is ideal as an umbrella term for e-mobility vehicles.

There are some vehicle types which are occasionally excluded from the EV banner, including hybrids. You will discover the reasons behind this a little later in the glossary, so keep reading to get additional information on the definitions of other associated varieties and technologies.

Fiber Laser Welding

Fiber laser welding is an important aspect of the production process for many electric cars, in applications such as the production of batteries and the manufacturing of motors. Fiber Laser cutting is also used in this part of the production process, with its incredibly accuracy and low cost allowing for components like stator plates to be made affordably and in large volumes.

Fuel Cell

Fuel cell technology provides an alternative to lithium-ion battery-based storage, with energy created using atmospheric oxygen and hydrogen. Water is the only waste product in this instance, if you discount the energy expended in extracting, transporting and storing the hydrogen itself. While some fuel cell vehicles do not have batteries onboard, others do feature some form of storage solution to help improve efficiency and range.

Green Number Plates

Governments around the world are attempting to incentivise electric vehicle owners with a range of green benefits, one of these are green number plates. Whilst still largely a futuristic concept, these are expected to provide numerous advantages including reduced parking fees, free or lower priced road tax, free or reduced fees in emission zones, etc.

Hybrid

Rather than relying entirely on batteries and electric motors to move from A to B, a hybrid car will pair a combustion engine with a separate zero emissions drivetrain. This can help to overcome the range issues and any complications with charging infrastructure which might afflict all-electric vehicles.

There are two main types of hybrid vehicles, which are HEV and PHEV, these can be defined as:

  • Hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) – Conventional hybrids (are also abbreviated to HEV) utilise fossil-powered engines to charge a typically small electric battery whilst you drive. An HEV uses electricity as its source of power at lower speeds and automatically switches to fossil fuel when at higher speeds. Owners have no ability to plug the HEV into an electricity supply and
  • Plug-in Hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) – PHEVs have both an internal electric motor, whilst also having an ICE (internal combustion engine). The vehicle uses electric power initially until a time when none is available. When this occurs, the ICE kicks in (this could be petrol or diesel). PHEV reduces the dependency and vulnerability for drivers needing to find charging points urgently and is perfect for 300 miles+ drives
The Toyota Prius is one of the best known examples of a hybrid vehicle

The Toyota Prius is one of the best known examples of a hybrid vehicle

ICE

ICE stands for Internal Combustion Engine. The adoption of e-mobility sees a move away from ICE powered vehicles, the current mainstay of the roads to new electric vehicles.

Range

Simply put, this is the distance an electric vehicle can be expected to travel when its battery is fully charged. Bear in mind that manufacturers will have a claimed maximum range which may differ from the real world range that can actually be achieved when the car is faced with use on public roads. Range will be influenced not only by the capacity of the battery, but also things like the temperature outside and even the efficiency with which the driver handles acceleration and braking.

Recharge Time

Electric vehicles take different times to recharge, although it is worth remembering that it is not just the vehicle itself that impacts this but also the charging station that is used. Expect a car to take between 6 and 8 hours to recharge if you are using a standard mains outlet. Using an approved domestic wall charger can cut this time in half, while visiting fast charge stations situated in car parks, service stations and garages can allow a good portion of the battery’s capacity to be filled in under an hour.

Regenerative Braking

Braking is one of the most inefficient aspects of driving any car, yet it is also entirely unavoidable. Thankfully, electric vehicle manufacturers have found ways to recoup some of the energy expended through braking to recharge onboard batteries. This can help to give small boosts to range which become significant in the long term and, most importantly, prevent waste.

Regenerative braking is a useful tool in an electric vehicle context

Regenerative braking is a useful tool in an electric vehicle context

 

Remote App Control

Several electric vehicle manufacturers have gone above and beyond to make their cars more intelligently integrated with modern technology, typically through the creation of dedicated smartphone apps for Android and iOS that allow owners remote access to numerous features.

The benefits of this are usually related to creature comforts, such as turning on the heating in a car on a cold morning a few minutes before you leave the house so that the interior is toasty before hitting the road. However, there are other practical features associated with these apps in many cases, allowing you to check up on the remaining charge, the time left until recharging is complete, the efficiency of your driving over recent trips and other important metrics.

Controlling an electric vehicle with a smartphone has many benefits

Controlling an electric vehicle with a smartphone has many benefits

Smart grids

Smart grids are set to increase in popularity in the years to come as e-mobility is more widely adopted. Smart grids give electric vehicle owners the chance to save money by charging their vehicles during off-peak periods. The process expects to balance variations in demand by shifting some demand to the off-peak period.

Zero Emissions

The phrase ‘zero emissions’ (or emissions free) is mentioned quite often when e-mobility is discussed. In most cases it is used to identify a vehicle which does not output any harmful pollutants at the point of use. So, while conventional cars will leave a trail of gases and particulates in their wake, an electric vehicle powered by battery or fuel cell will not emit environmentally problematic materials.

Of course, there are some caveats to consider, such as the source used to provide the electricity to recharge a vehicle and the environmental impact of the acquisition and processing of the materials used to make them. Meanwhile hybrids are not completely free from harmful emissions, due to their internal combustion engines; they can simply operate without producing pollutants when they are being driven on electric power alone.

Get help with e-mobility terms & tech

For the latest information on the technologies behind the e-mobility revolution, including fiber lasers, contact SPI Lasers and register for helpful updates on the industry.

 

Image Sources: bgstaiwan, Joenomias, Designbymickey and stevepb

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