Electric vehicles: a glossary

Neelesh Vasistha Mar 19, 2021 · 5 min read

New to EVs? Have a beer — glad you could make it. Those jumping over to the electric side may be daunted by a strange language: scrolls of new acronyms and figures, looking as pointy and foreign as other people’s passwords. But relax, this code isn’t as hard as it seems: in fact, you likely know much of it already. Here’s a glossary to help you dive in, or fill the gaps.


EV (Electric vehicle)

You’ll see this one a lot. It’s a catch-all term for any vehicle (car, truck, etc.) that uses electricity as a main or secondary power. This also includes hybrid cars with backup gas tanks.

BEV (Battery electric vehicle)

A vehicle that uses electricity only. Thus the maxim: all BEVs are EVs, but not all EVs are BEVs.

ICE (Internal combustion engine)

A ‘traditional’, dirty engine that uses fossil fuels.

PHEV (Plug-in hybrid)

A vehicle containing both an ICE and electric battery.

FCEV (Fuel cell vehicle)

A vehicle powered by a fuel cell. Similar to a BEV, but instead of recharging the battery, the fuel cells are refilled with hydrogen.

ULEV (Ultra-low-emission vehicle)

Any of the above vehicle types, providing they a) use low carbon technologies, and b) emit less than 75g of Co2 per kilometer.

Protocol = Technical term in computing. A protocol is a framework governing how data travels between different devices in the same network. It allows connected devices to communicate, regardless of their manufacturer or design.

OCPI (Open Charge Point Interface)

A protocol between CPOs and service providers, laying the invisible infrastructure needed for EV drivers to ‘roam’ everywhere. Ever think about how our phone seamlessly switches networks when we enter a new country? It’s like that for EVs.

OCPP (Open Charge Point Protocol)

Another set of rules, this time to grease communication between the Charge Point and backend management system.


kWh (Kilowatt hours)

How we measure EV battery capacity. A battery rated at 100 kWh can deliver 100 kW for one hour, 50 kW for two hours, or 1 kW for 100 hours.


Each electric car has a battery of a different voltage, but most often, battery packs are between 400 and 800 volts. Essentially the higher the voltage, the faster you can potentially charge.


Charge point

The physical location where you charge an EV. These can be private or public.

EVSE (Electric vehicle supply equipment)

The individual machine you plug into. If a charge point has several EVSEs, it’s often called a charging station.


Typically, this is the exact location of one or more EVSEs, but can also mean the entrance of a parking garage or gated community.

Charge Point, Location and EVSE

Level 1

The slowest charge, supplying around 1.3 kW to 2.4 kW per hour. Translation: an overnight charge may deliver only 30–50 miles (50–80km) of range. Not great, but this may be enough for most commutes or urban trips.

Level 2

A faster, and more popular charge speed that fills the average EV in eight hours or less. It’s the most common type in the US, delivering about 18–28 miles (30–45 km) of range per hour.

Level 3

Rapid charging, also known as “DC Fast Charging”. DCFC is designed to fill an EV battery to 80% in 20–40 minutes, and 100% in 60–90 minutes. The maximum current is limited only by what the EV can handle. Logically, the costs for DCFC are high, as is power consumption.

Tesla Supercharger = Tesla’s exclusive rapid charging network. Their latest V3 Supercharging has a peak speed of 250kW, flash-charging most batteries within a fraction of an hour.

Connectors and Types

The industry uses several different standards, and connectors vary from vehicle to vehicle. As a result, it’s not quite as simple as knowing whether you need diesel or petrol.

Common connectors in 2021

Connectors (plugs)

A charging cable has two ends, or connectors (sometimes called plugs). One goes into the car, the other into the charge point.

Type 1

Also known as a J Plug or J1772. This vehicle-side AC connector is the standard across in the US and Japan.

Type 2

A popular AC connector on new EVs. The standard across Australia and Europe.


The trade name for one rapid charging method. Used internationally by Japanese brands Mitsubishi, Toyota and Nissan.


Combined charging system. CCS combines existing Type 1 and Type 2 connectors with a DC connector, and can hence deliver a much faster charge. Most new EV’s come with CCS Type 2 connectors.


A proprietary Tesla connector combining AC and DC for fast charging. Recently Tesla is changing to support the CCS Type 2 connector, starting with their Model 3.

e-Mobility actors

CPO (Charge Point Operator)

Companies that own and maintain charging stations.

EMSP (Electric Mobility Service Provider)

EMSPs manage the relationship with EV drivers, giving them software access to charging services.

MaaS (Mobility as a Service)

Instead of using private transport, people use MaaS to easily plan, book and pay for mobility services — often within the walls of a single application. Uber is a prime example here.

Anxieties and more

SoC (State of Charge)

The remaining battery power you have.

Range anxiety

the fear of your battery running out while you’re driving.

Charge anxiety

the fear of not being able to charge due to occupied charge points or queues.

Associated Technologies

Smart Charging

When charge points share information with the CPO and EMSP, who can then better manage the grid and reduce overloading.

V2G (Vehicle to Grid)

A system where EVs communicate with the power grid to sell demand response services, either by returning electricity to the grid or by throttling charge rates.