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Is It Electric or Electrical Cars?

As information around EVs becomes more widespread, drivers seek clarity on whether to call them electric or electrical cars.

The former is technically more accurate, even though some people search for the latter — and that’s fine. These terms can be interchangeable.

So, no matter what you search for or call them — electric or electrical cars — at least three things are constant. Those things are their fuel economy, lack of emissions, and increasingly convenient charging options. That’s what makes electric cars a great pick when buying a car.

Although these terms are interchangeable, you might need to get a bit more specific as you search for an electric vehicle that best fits your needs.

Terms to Know For Your Electric or Electrical Cars Search 

  • Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) are a step up from the standard hybrid vehicle. PHEVs come equipped with a conventional internal combustion engine and an electric motor with a powerful battery that needs powering up at a charging station or via an electrical outlet in a home. (The latter would take much more time to charge.) This allows the battery to store enough power and feed the electric motor to decrease your gas usage by as much as 60 percent, saving you time and money at the gas pump. PHEVs can travel up to 40 miles on electric power alone, rather than a couple of miles with a standard hybrid vehicle.
  • Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) also run on both an internal combustion engine and an electric motor that uses energy stored in a battery. Unlike PHEVs, however, HEV drivers charge their batteries via regenerative braking. Regenerative braking stores the kinetic energy used to stop the car to charge its battery and help the internal combustion engine accelerate the vehicle. Drivers desire HEVs and PHEVs for their fuel economy because their reliance on battery power decreases how much gas the internal combustion engine uses. Since HEVs and PHEVs have a gasoline engine, they can keep traveling after the battery is depleted and fuel up at any gas station.
  • Electric vehicles (EVs) don’t have an internal combustion engine at all. Instead, electric cars run solely on battery power. They come equipped with larger battery packs that must stay charged if their drivers want to keep traveling. Because EVs run on battery power alone, some models can drive up to 300 miles on a single charge.
  • Interest in electric sport utility vehicles (SUVs), has begun to surge now that automakers have developed the technology necessary to put more affordable batteries into larger and heavier vehicles. Drivers are also giving these vehicles a new look because several states, including California, call for cars to be emission-free in the decades ahead. General Motors, for one, said it plans to be all-electric by 2035.

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Chanel Lee
Chanel Lee is an author specializing in business, technology, and innovation. Her work has appeared in The Village Voice, Entertainment Weekly,, Crain Communications, and other publications. She once made a phone call to Monaco for a car story that forced her to leave a voice mail in French – and got a terse e-mail in English in return. She is a native of New York City and... Read More about Chanel Lee

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