The EV world has its share of specific jargon and slang. Whether you are a new EV driver or a business owner wishing to attract them, it pays to know the lingo. This glossary is geared for a North American audience and isn't intended to cover everything, so there might be a few differences in the technical terms from other markets like Europe. but if you have a question about a term that I have missed, contact me and I will be happy to add it!
For the purpose of safety, the National Electrical Code generally specifies that overcurrent protection devices such as circuit breakers should not be subjected to continuous loads (3 hours or more) greater than 80% of their rated capacity. For example, a device hooked to a 50-amp breaker should not draw more than 40 amps continuously. This rule is important for EVs because electric vehicles can draw power continuously for long periods when charging.
This is the type of charging that utilizes alternating current, available basically everywhere. The charger present inside an EV converts the AC power it receives into DC power to charge the car's drive battery. Level 1 and Level 2 charging are both AC charging.
Battery Electric Vehicle is another name for a standard electric-only EV. The leading 'B' differentiates it from a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) or Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV).
CCS, aka CCS Combo, aka SAE Combo
The Combined Charging System is a DC fast charging standard. The North American CCS connector is based on the J1772 plug, but with two additional connection pins at the bottom. It is a competitor to the CHAdeMO standard. Cars equipped with CCS have one 'combo' receptacle for both J1772 AC charging and DC fast charging. CCS is the fast-charging system used by most car manufacturers in the North American market.
|A CCS charging port on a car (left) and a CCS connector at a charging station (right)|
CHAdeMO is a DC fast charging standard with a unique connector. This connector predates CCS and in North America it's primarily used by Nissan. It has declined in usage since the introduction of CCS as a competitor.
|A CHAdeMO charging port on a car (left) and a CHAdeMO connector at a charging station (right)|
On a gas car with an automatic transmission, the idling engine (by means of a torque converter) can cause the car to creep: to move slowly by itself when in gear. Many EVs will artificially simulate this effect to make it feel more like a 'regular' car. On some EVs, creep can be turned on or off.
DC Fast Charging, aka Level 3 charging
This is a type of charging using direct current, that recharges an EV most quickly. DC fast charging stations are usually a paid service because they are expensive to install and support. Many DC fast charging stations contain both CCS and CHAdeMO connectors, to service the greatest number of EVs. Tesla's Supercharger network is also a DC fast charging network.
|A DC fast charging station by EVgo|
This is a name Tesla uses for its Level 2 AC charging units that have been provided to businesses, so that Tesla owners can charge their cars at hotels, restaurants, stores, and attractions. Tesla in-car navigation systems can show these sites to drivers.
|A Tesla Destination Charger at the Blue Swallow Motel, on Route 66 in Tucumcari, New Mexico|
EVSE, aka EV Charger
Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment is the official name for an AC charging unit that EVs use to charge. Many EVSEs will plug into an appropriate AC electrical outlet, while others are made to be hard-wired into a home or business' power. An EVSE is commonly called an 'EV charger', but technically the actual charging hardware for an EV is a part of the car, internally.
|A ChargePoint home EVSE unit|
A Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle is a type of EV that uses a hydrogen fuel cell as its source of power. The car must be refueled with hydrogen in a manner similar to filling up a gas car with gasoline. This type of car emits only water and heat as waste products. Refueling time is shorter than charging a battery, but there are currently very few hydrogen refueling stations. The Toyota Mirai is a FCEV.
A lot of EVs estimate their range based on recent trips they have taken and other factors such as temperature, so a given car's estimated range can vary based on the weather, terrain, or owner's driving style. Because of this variation, many EV drivers refer to their car's real-time range estimate as a Guess-O-Meter.
This is the practice of driving an EV (or even a gas car) in a manner that maximizes range. By keeping acceleration and deceleration very gradual, and maintaining a low speed near an EV motor's peak efficiency (typically 20-30 MPH), the rated range of an EV can often be greatly exceeded - sometimes more than doubled.
Shorthand for a gasoline car, with its Internal Combustion Engine. Most EV drivers still have an ICE in their garage in addition to their EV.
When a parking space designated for EV parking has been filled by a gas car, it is said to be ICE'd. This can be a big problem when an EV arrives at a location with a need to charge, but can't access the charging station due to ICE'ing. This is usually seen as very rude, somewhat like an able person parking in a spot marked for handicapped drivers. In some states it is illegal for a non-EV to park in a designated EV spot.
J1772 connector, aka SAE J1772, aka J-Plug
The J1772 standard includes the most common type of EV charging connector in North America, a standard administered by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). The round J1772 connector is used for Level 1 (120 volts) and Level 2 (240 volts) AC charging on most brands of EVs sold in North America, with the notable exception of Tesla, which can use a J1772 connector with an adapter.
|A J1772 charging port on a car (left) and a J1772 connector of a home EVSE (right)|
Kilowatt, aka kW
The kilowatt is a unit of electrical power. The charger present inside an EV is normally described in terms of its rate of power acceptance in kW. For example, the Chevy Spark EV contains a 3.3 kW charger, and most Nissan Leafs contain a 6.6 kW charger. EV charging station output, especially DC fast charging, is often described in kW.
Kilowatt-hour, aka kWh
The kilowatt-hour is a unit of energy. It is the energy of 1 kilowatt of power sustained over a period of one hour. The capacity of the drive battery in an EV is usually described in kilowatt-hours. For example, the 2017 Chevy Bolt contains a 60 kWh battery.
Level 1 charging
The 120-volt power provided by a standard AC wall outlet is referred to as Level 1 charging. It is very slow, but it can be a life-saver when no other EV charging is available. All EVs come supplied, at minimum, with a connector that can charge at Level 1 from a standard wall outlet. For an EV owner with a short work commute, this may be all that is required to recharge a car overnight for daily use.
Level 2 charging
AC power at 240 volts is considered Level 2 charging, achieving faster speeds than level 1. This is comparable to power used by large appliances such as an electric clothes dryer, an electric oven, a home workshop welder, etc.
The National Electrical Manufacturers Association is the trade association responsible for electrical plug standards in North America, and all common AC connectors are classified under NEMA standards. For example, a standard 120-volt 3-prong home wall plug is a NEMA 5-15.
|Common NEMA connectors and some typical uses; graphic by Orion Lawlor for Wikimedia Commons|
The NEMA 14-50 outlet is a common 50-amp outlet, in use by most RV parks for connecting RVs to AC power. It is also used for electric ovens. Because of its availability and relatively high amperage, many EV accessories and charging connectors utilize this plug.
The EV driver practice of plugging in their car at a location that provides free charging, to 'add a few electrons' even when the car is not low on charge, during a normal day of errands.
A Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle is a type of EV which still has an engine like a gas or diesel car, but can plug in to charge the battery like a battery-only EV. PHEVs generally have smaller batteries than a battery-only EV, and will use the engine either directly like a gas car or as a generator to recharge the battery when it is depleted. The Chevy Volt is a PHEV.
The most extensive online database of US electric charging stations is located at PlugShare.com. PlugShare users can view a map of charging stations, with details such as plug type, pricing, and nearby amenities. Users can review sites, post photos and also utilize trip tools to make their EV travel easier.
The worry experienced by some EV drivers that their car will run out of battery charge before reaching their destination or a charging station.
Regenerative Braking, aka Regen
EVs have braking systems that recapture energy when the vehicle is slowing, which is used to recharge the battery. Implementations of regen vary by manufacturer, and on some cars the regen strength can be increased and decreased by the driver.
Cars made by Tesla since 2012 are able to use the Supercharger network, which is a large network of public DC fast charging stations built and maintained by Tesla for its customers. As of early 2023, Tesla has just begun adding the capability for other brands of cars to use superchargers in North America. The supercharger stalls must be equipped with an adapter to enable this functionality. This multi-car access is well underway in Europe where a different connector is used, one common to all brands including Tesla.
|A Tesla Supercharger station at the U-Drop Inn, on Route 66 in Shamrock, Texas|
Every Tesla in North America except the original Roadster (2008) uses a proprietary Tesla connector type, which is used for both AC charging, and DC fast charging at Tesla Superchargers. Adapters are used to connect a Tesla to chargers with other connector types, such as J1772.
|A Tesla connector (left) and a Tesla charging port on a car (right)|
If there is another EV-related term not listed here that you think should be added, you can send an email to mike@ElectricRoute66.com with your suggestion!