The USA’s electric car revolution began with the introduction of hybrids Honda Insight in 1999 and Toyota Prius in 2000. A rarity at first, they started making a change in consumers’ minds and paved the way for their younger siblings. There are currently dozens of EV models on the market, and they fall into one of these categories:
BEVs – Battery-Electric Vehicles
Lacking an internal combustion engine, this type relies on an electric engine powered by a battery. To recharge, the driver has to plug the vehicle into a power source.
Currently, the number one BEV in the USA is Tesla Model 3, with over 150,000 units sold. With nearly 20,000 cars sold, occupying second place is another Tesla, Model X. Chevrolet Bolt came third with just over 16,000 sales.
FCEVs – Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles
The latest development in zero-emissions vehicles, FCEVs are powered by electric engines but don’t rely on batteries. Instead, they run on a chemical reaction of hydrogen from a tank and oxygen from the air. They are as quiet and ecological as BEVs, with water as the only by-product. On the downside, there were only 43 refilling stations in mid-2020, most of them in California.
FCEVs are rare in the USA. The latest data indicate there are only about 8,700 such cars, with the majority registered in sunny California.
HEVs – Hybrid Electric Vehicles
The revolution started with this type of car, even though it still combined an electric engine with an internal combustion one. The clean drive is auxiliary, and owners still have to fill tanks up with gasoline. As the car drives, ICE produces enough electricity to cover the distance of up to 20 miles.
In 2019 there were over 400,000 HEVs sold in the USA. The most popular models were the Toyota RAV4, Toyota Prius, and Ford Fusion. Hybrid cars are slowly giving way to their more advanced version that is rechargeable, PHEVs.
PHEVs – Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles
PHEVs have a huge advantage over regular hybrids. They feature a recharging option, just like BEVs. More independent from gasoline, they still require visits at the gas stations. The combination of electric and internal combustion engines allows them distances of up to 600 miles, starting with both the tank and the battery full.
Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid is the most popular car in this segment, with nearly 24,000 units sold in 2019. Honda Clarity and Ford Fusion Energi come second and third with over 10,000 and over 7,000 vehicles sold in 2019, respectively.
EREVs – Extended Range Electric Vehicles
Combining an internal combustion engine and an electric one, they might seem a bit like PHEVs. In fact, they are powered by electricity coming from the battery, and ICE starts when there is a need to recharge. EREVs overcome the main disadvantage of BEVs, which is a limited range. Although not entirely zero emissions, Extended Range Electric Vehicles consume far less gasoline than ordinary internal combustion cars.
This type was outmatched by other electric vehicles. Chevrolet Volt and Cadillac ELR were available either as EREVs or with a range-extender as an option, but their production has already been discontinued. BMW i3 remains on the market with an optional range-extender.
For those considering buying an EV, the federal government offers tax credits. These depend on the battery’s capacity, and the current rebates range from $100 to $7,000. With such incentives, 2019 saw 17 million new cars in the USA, of which just under 730,000 were electric vehicles. Nearly 50 percent of those EVs were BEVs. Altogether over 1.4 million battery electric vehicles have sold since the first one hit the market in 2010, mostly in California. The state recently refreshed its Clean Fuel Rewards program, increasing the amount to $1500 upfront.
Even though not mainstream now, EVs will become more frequent in the USA. Nearly all car manufacturers see the change coming and sell or will sell them in the coming years. However, to make the transition smoother and faster, a network of charging stations, coupled with the government home charging incentives, is a must.
Giles Kirkland, an experienced car expert, is passionate about all wheeled vehicles. He loves researching various aspects of the auto industry and tech, from cybersecurity in self-driving cars to science behind electric car batteries. Giles’s articles are available on his Twitter account. The infographics originally appeared on Oponeo; electromobility in Europe
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.