Electric vehicles 101

Electric vehicles 101

Get to know electric vehicles better.

The more you know, the more you’ll want one!

Sign up for our EV deals

Quick links

What is an EV?

An electric vehicle (EV) is a vehicle that runs on an electric current. There are three main types of vehicle commonly called "electric", and it's worth knowing the difference:

  1. Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) run only on electricity. With a BEV, you charge the car's battery with electricity. That battery then powers the electric motor, which propels the car forward. Since the car itself is not burning a fuel to generate movement, there are no tail-pipe emissions. Instead, the carbon footprint of a BEV depends on how the electricity that runs it is produced. Some common BEVs in our program are the Chevrolet Bolt, Nissan LEAF, and BMW i3.
  2. Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) combine a battery-powered electric motor with an internal combustion engine. You charge your vehicle with electricity and use it much like an all-electric vehicle. However, if and when you run out of charge, the internal combustion engine serves as a back-up. While running only on electricity, a PHEV's carbon footprint again depends on the fuel mix that generated the electricity. As soon as the internal combustion engine switches on, the engine's tail-pipe emissions add to the vehicle's carbon footprint. Some common PHEVs in our program are the Chevrolet Volt, Honda Clarity, Toyota Prius Prime, and BMW i3 with Range Extender.
  3. Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) also combine an internal combustion engine and an electric propulsion system. However, HEVs are “charged” with gasoline; you cannot plug them in to charge them with electricity, so they are not strictly speaking “EVs”. However, HEVs are more efficient than traditional internal combustion engines because they take advantage of technologies such as regenerative braking. The best known HEV is the Toyota Prius.

When we talk about “EVs”, we’re talking about battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs). The Drive Green program does not include HEVs.

EVs contrast with conventional vehicles, which run on an internal combustion engine: you add a fuel (gasoline, diesel fuel, or ethanol), it ignites and releases energy that is translated into motion. In the process, however, the vehicle releases carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases contributing to climate change.

Car shopping & EV basics

Hybrid/EV Buying Guide

Buying Guide from Consumer Reports
Last updated January 2018

A concise guide to buying and owning a plug-in vehicle.

Read the guide

The Car Book's Snapshot Guide to Electric Vehicles

Buying Guide from the Consumer Federation of America
Posted on May 14, 2018

A snapshot guide to the next generation of vehicle power and how they rate.

Read the guide

Best Electric Cars

Buying Guide from Edmunds.com

Browse electric cars and see Edmund's top picks.

Read the guide

More Useful Links

About EVs:

About Car Shopping:

Range & Charging

The Battery & Range

The Battery & Range

EV battery size is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). The more kWh capacity your car’s battery has, the farther you can go between charges. This kWh capacity, along with your car's efficiency, determines your car’s range.

The Onboard Charger

The Onboard Charger

Your car will have an onboard charger. Its capacity, measured in kilowatts (kW), affects your charging speed. The more kW, the faster the charge!

Emissions & Climate Change

A vehicle running only on electricity has zero tail-pipe emissions. Even if you account for the emissions associated with producing the electricity to charge them, electric vehicles charged with electricity in New England produce far fewer greenhouse gas emissions than vehicles powered by internal combustion engines.

On top of that, our electric grid is getting greener with each passing year, thanks to laws like the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard in Massachusetts and the Renewable Energy Standard in Rhode Island, which require electricity suppliers to increase their renewable energy content each year. This means the environmental benefits of EV will increase each year.

Ready to get started?