DRIVE: California's Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program

Hybrid and Plug-in Electric Vehicles

Electric Vehicle Benefits

Plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) are propelled by electric motors powered by rechargeable battery packs. They can help to reduce our dependence on petroleum because the energy powering them is domestically generated. These vehicles have many advantages over traditional internal combustion engines because they:

  • save money on fuel and vehicle maintenance;
  • are more than three times more energy efficient;
  • may be recharged at home overnight;
  • produce no tailpipe emissions;
  • are quiet to drive;
  • require less maintenance than gasoline vehicles; and
  • are available in a variety of hybrid configurations.

Electric Vehicle Configurations

Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV)

HEVs are powered by a combination of conventional or alternative fuels and the electricity stored in a battery. These batteries are charged through the internal combustion engine and regenerative braking system, allowing for a smaller engine and resulting in improved fuel economy without sacrificing performance.

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV)

PHEVs have an internal combustion engine as well as an electric motor which uses a battery pack module stowed on-board. PHEVs can be charged by an outside power source, by the internal combustion engine or the regenerative braking system.

Plug-in/All-Electric Vehicles (PEV)

An on-board battery pack module stores the electricity used to power the vehicle. The battery charge can be extended through the advantage of a regenerative breaking system. The battery pack is re-charged by plugging the vehicle into an electric power source. There are no tailpipe emissions from these vehicles.

PEV Challenges

  • Most PEV's can travel about a hundred miles before needing to be recharged, which might be inconvenient for those who drive longer distances in a single trip. PHEV's on the other hand, typically have range capabilities comparable to gasoline or diesel vehicles.
  • Recharging at 220 volts (Level 2) can take between 4-8 hours, depending on the battery's state of charge and total storage capacity. Direct current fast charging at 480 volts and higher amperage can require approximately 30 minutes in many applications. Fast charging has been standardized under two primary methodologies: CHAdeMO and SAE J1772 Combo protocols. CHAdeMO architecture is primarily used by Nissan in some models of the Leaf and by Mitsubishi's i-MiEV. The SAE Combo standard is planned to be integrated into the GM Spark EV as well as other future US and European PEV models. Some versions of the Tesla Model S are capable of fast charging using a third proprietary standard that is part of the Tesla Supercharger network, but are currently not compatible with the other two primary standards. Creating a common fast charging network available to all drivers continues to be a challenge to full PEV market penetration. Consumers need to be aware of the current options and limitations inherent in each fast charging standard.
  • The large battery packs occupy a lot of vehicle space and can be expensive to replace, if necessary, although most automakers provide at least an 8-year or 100,000 mile warranty on battery drivetrain components in California. Researchers are continuing to develop improved battery technologies, with the goals of increasing driving ranges and decreasing the weight and cost of batteries.
  • Power plants that produce the electricity to run PEVs emit greenhouse gasses. California's 2008 electricity grid had 35 percent lower carbon emissions than the national grid and will continue to experience reduced emissions as utilities convert to the use of renewable sources for electricity generation (wind, solar, hydro). In 2011, the three major utilities in California served over 20% of their customers' electric energy demand from renewable sources.

How is the Energy Commission helping?

More than $25.3 million has been awarded in a variety of infrastructure projects. In 2010, there were 1,300 charging stations at 401 different sites in California with most in the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Areas. To date, the Energy Commission has begun establishing the foundation for a zero emission transportation future through the funding of approximately 6,200 Electric Vehicle charge points, the largest network of electric charging stations in the country. The Energy Commission is also providing funding to assist California's diverse regions to develop regional strategic plans for the rollout of PEVs and deployment of electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE). More details about this and other transportation funding opportunities can be found on the transportation funding page.

The growth of the electric vehicle market requires the Energy Commission to work closely with the California Plug-in Electric Vehicle Collaborative Council, the Air Resources Board,the California Public Utilities Commission, and the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) to establish funding priorities for charging infrastructure, strategic planning for smart charging services, investments to improve grid capability and reliability, and related activities. Find out more about our electric vehicle projects here:
Plug-in Electric Vehicle Projects

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