Different Types of Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Technology

The field of automotive mechanics has evolved and so have our tools. We have entered a new era dominated by electronics. Increasingly sophisticated communication networks, navigation systems, direct injection, driver-assistance systems… New technology is changing how vehicles operate and it is our job to keep up.

If the internal combustion engine continues to evolve, the shift from internal combustion to electric power, either directly or through intermediate technologies, is inevitable.

The list of alternative-powered vehicles is constantly growing. Here is an overview of the different types of technology that can be found on the road.

HYBRID ELECRTRIC VEHICLES (HEVs)

Hybrid vehicles are conventional vehicles that use electricity stored in high-voltage batteries to power electric motors. The internal combustion engine and the electric motor can work alone or together to power the vehicle. Electric motor assistance results in significant fuel savings if the vehicle is used primarily in urban areas.

PLUG-IN HYBRID ELECRTRIC VEHICLES (PHEVs)

Plug-in hybrid technology is very similar to that of a regular hybrid. However, the battery in this type of vehicle has a larger reserve and offers greater range in all-electric mode. Plug-in hybrids can run in electric mode for longer before converting to hybrid mode, while continuing to rely on the combustion engine to increase the range. In cold weather, this type of vehicle still relies on its internal combustion engine to keep passengers warm.

Plug-in hybrids can, in most cases, recharge their high-voltage battery while on the road, an innovative feature that many people have been waiting for.

BATTERY ELECTRIC VEHICLES (BEVs)

Main components:

  • High voltage battery
  • Junction box
  • Level 3 charging capability
  • On-board charger for Level 1 and Level 2 charging
  • Addition of a positive temperature coefficient (PTC) (liquid or forced air)
  • Electric motor
  • Final drive unit
  • DC/AC converter
  • DC/DC converter
  • 12V battery

Electric vehicles do not burn fuel. They are powered by a high-voltage battery, usually lithium-ion, which transmits energy to one or more electric motors to move the vehicle. Because they produce zero polluting emissions, electric vehicles are also considered clean. This is especially true in Quebec, where clean energy production is common practice.

Electric vehicles around the world are more or less green, depending on the source of the electric network that supplies their charge.

 PLUG-IN HYBRID ELECTRIC VEHICLES WITH EXTENDED RANGE (PHEV-ER)

As a plug-in vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt is in a class of its own. While the first generation (2011-2015) had an all-electric range of about 80 km, the second generation (2016-2018) boasts a range of 110 km.

The Chevrolet Volt is an extended-range vehicle, but the first generation was more like a standard plug-in hybrid vehicle. The internal combustion engine and wheels of a plug-in hybrid vehicle are not connected. A generator (heat engine) is installed under the hood to charge the high-voltage batteries, which in turn drive the electric motors that rotate the wheels.

When the all-electric mode is depleted and the gasoline engine is forced to engage, the second generation of the Chevrolet Volt runs like a regular hybrid vehicle. The second-generation transmission transfers power to the combustion engine, which uses a planetary gear set to rotate the wheels.

HYDROGEN FUEL CELL ELECTRIC VEHICLES (FCEVs)

Instead of storing their energy in a high-voltage battery, hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles store it in the form of hydrogen gas or liquid. The hydrogen is fed into a fuel cell, which separates the electrons from the nuclei. The electrons pass through the cell and generate an electric current before returning to the nuclei. The resulting energy is stored in a high-voltage battery and used to power electric motors that drive the vehicle. The only emission produced by this type of vehicle is water vapor.