Learn the lingo

When you own an EV, you’ll need to learn a few new terms particular to EV culture. The longer you own your vehicle, the more readily this EV language will roll off the tongue. We’ve laid out the most commonly used terms in the EV world. It’s helpful to become familiar with the following terms as you learn more about EVs.


AC (alternating current) – an electric current that changes direction at regular intervals. EV motors are either AC or DC. Most new EVs will have an AC motor.

Amp – a unit of electric charge.

Battery – a device that stores electricity and feeds electric current to the motor. While some EV batteries are lead acid or NiMH batteries, many newer EVs are lithium ion. These batteries are less likely than others to lose their charge when they’re not in use. Read more about batteries here.

BEV (battery powered vehicle) – a vehicle that’s 100% powered by a battery.

Charging – filling up an EV’s battery with electricity. There are three types of charging, which differ in speed: Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3. Read more about chargers here.

Charging point – the location where an EV is plugged in to be charged. These points are located at one’s home, workplace or in public, such as at a local library or post office.

Charging station – synonymous with “charging point.” The location where an EV is being charged.

DC (direct current) – an electric current that runs in just one direction. DC motors are less expensive and simpler than AC motors, though most new EVs use AC motors.

DC fast charging – also known as Level 3 charging or DC quick charging, these public chargers are the fastest way to charge an EV. Typically, EV owners can find these chargers in public where private companies own and manage them.

DC quick charging – also known as Level 3 charging or DC fast charging.

EV (electric vehicle) – the abbreviation for any vehicle that uses an electric motor. An EV usually refers to a car, but is also a scooter, motorbike or even a train with an electric motor.

EVSE (electric vehicle supply equipment) – the equipment used to recharge an electric vehicle.

Fast charge – another term for Level 3 charging, which can provide almost a full battery charge in 15-30 minutes, depending on an EV’s make and model. These expensive chargers are mainly found in locations like gas stations or rest stops.

HCU (home charging unit) – a charging device to be used at an EV owner’s home

kWh (kilowatt hour) – a unit of energy that’s equal to the energy expended in one hour by one kilowatt of power. EV battery size measurement is kWh. The higher the kWh, the greater the battery capacity.

Lead acid battery – a type of battery used in EVs, but less so these days given their shorter service life. Lead acid batteries, however, are inexpensive.

Level 1 EVSE  the standard, and slowest, way to charge an EV. The equipment, typically included with the vehicle, plugs into a 120-volt outlet to recharge the car.

Level 2 EVSE – faster charging that uses a 240-volt outlet. One must purchase these chargers separately and install it through an electrician. 

Level 3 EVSE – Also known as DC fast charging, or DC quick charging. Level 3 charging is the fastest possible charge, and equipment costs tens of thousands of dollars. Usually a business or city owns these chargers.

Lithium ion battery – another type of rechargeable battery that’s most commonly used in new EVs. The life of a lithium battery is around the same as the life of an EV, 8-10 years.

Off-peak charging – when an EV owner charges his or her vehicle during times of low demand for electricity, typically at night. This can lower charging costs.

Range anxiety – when an electric vehicle owner worries that their battery will run out of juice before they get to their destination.

Regenerative braking – how EV brakes work. Regenerative braking captures the vehicle’s momentum and turns it into electricity that recharges the onboard battery as the EV slows or stops.

SOC (state of charge) – a percentage of how much juice is left in the battery pack

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