Types of Vehicles

Plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) is a general term used to describe any car that runs at least partially on battery power and is recharged by electricity. There are two main types of PEVs to choose from, pure battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.


Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV)

Pure BEVs run completely on electricity stored in batteries and operate off of an electric motor (as opposed to a gasoline engine). Some general BEV characteristics include:

  • BEVs can travel between 70-100 miles on a full charge
  • Most BEVs take about 4-6 hours to fully charge using a 220 volt charger
  • BEVs can be charged with either a standard 120 volt outlet but for the fastest home charging, many opt for the 220 volt charger
  • BEVs are zero emission with the only emissions associated with them coming from utility generation

Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles (PHEV)

PHEVs have both an electric motor that is battery powered and can be plugged in and recharged as well as a gasoline engine that can be refueled with gasoline. Some general PHEV characteristics include:

  • PHEVs can travel on battery power between 15-35 miles and can travel in gasoline-electric hybrid mode 300+ miles
  • Most PHEVs take about 1 hour to fully charge using a 220 volt charger and about 3 hours with a 120 volt charger
  • PHEV drivers often prefer to charge from a 120 volt outlet because there in no cost for charging equipment and the time to charge is minimal
  • PHEVs have very low emissions and the actual emissions depend on the electric to gas ratio

You can find more detailed information on these two main types of PEVs on the Drive Clean website.


Choosing a Plug-In

The majority of major auto manufacturers as well as many smaller companies have developed a plug-in electric vehicle. Many are often surprised by the variety of electric vehicles on the market today. Plug In America tracks the progress of electric vehicle manufacturers as well as provides information on highway-capable cars and trucks, 2 and 3 wheeled, and commercial electric vehicles. Energy.Gov’s EV Everywhere website all features search capabilities for various types of electric vehicles.

There is no overall best plug-in electric vehicle (PEV). It all depends on how many miles a day you drive, whether you take frequent long trips, whether you have a place to plug in your car, how much money you’re prepared to spend, etc. We recommend visiting our Events page for upcoming test drive events in the Monterey Bay region as well as opportunities to speak with local PEV owners about their experiences. You can also take the Sierra Club’s PEV Quiz which will help you determine what PEV might best fit your lifestyle and needs.


The Sierra Club also has a useful online PEV Guide where you can check out different types of PEVs, calculate how much CO2 and money in fueling you’ll save, learn what EV driver incentives exist in your area, and find out where to buy an EV.

Check out our 5 minute Electric Vehicle PSA and our 60 second Electric Vehicle PSA for highlights on some of the more popular vehicle types on the road today!


A Nissan Leaf and Smart E Car recharge at a Level 2 ChargePoint station

A Nissan Leaf and Think EV [both all-electric vehicles (BEVs)] recharge at a the Level 1 and Level 2 ChargePoint station at the same time.

A Toyota Prius Hybrid is one of the more popular PHEVs on the road today

A Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid is one of the more popular PHEVs on the road today

A BMW ActiveE and a Tesla Model S recharge at a Level 2 ChargePoint charger

A BMW ActiveE and a Tesla Model S recharge at a Level 2 ChargePoint charger

VIAs Electrified erev40 pick up truck soon to hit the market

VIAs Electrified erev40 pick up truck soon to hit the market

The Toyota Rav4 EV meets the needs of those who prefer a larger carrying capacity

The Toyota RAV4 EV meets the needs of those who prefer a larger carrying capacity

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