FUNDAMENTALS OF \ EV VEHICLES
Electrification is introducing an unprecedented choice of powertrain options – but which ones are right for your fleet?
The automotive industry is undergoing the biggest transformation in its history, and it’s happening quickly. Across Europe, manufacturers are working towards a 37.5% reduction in average CO2 emissions for new cars between 2021 and 2030, while also meeting ever-tighter limits on harmful pollutants. The UK will also publish its own post-Brexit emissions regulations this year, moving towards ending the sale of non-hybrid cars and vans in 2030, and all combustion engines in 2035.
For fleets, this transition period introduces a much broader range of powertrains as manufacturers add progressively higher levels of electrification. Understanding them is vital for effective deployment – here’s what you might encounter:
MILD HYBRID (MHEV)
One in five diesel and one in eight petrol cars registered in the UK last year was a mild hybrid, according to the SMMT. These feature a small electric motor which provides light assistance while accelerating, recovers energy to a battery while slowing down, and enables the engine to shut off when approaching junctions or coasting on the motorway. On-costs are low – sometimes less than exhaust after-treatment for an equivalent diesel engine – with a claimed 5% improvement in fuel economy and almost no change to the driving experience.
FULL HYBRID (HEV)
Sometimes marketed as a ‘self-charging hybrid’, full hybrids are already a familiar technology – Honda and Toyota have sold them in the UK for more than 20 years. These feature one or more electric motors which not only assist the combustion engine but are powerful enough to propel the car without using any fuel. There’s no option to plug in, the battery recharges while driving but it typically only offers an electric range of less than a mile. The car switches in and out of electric mode for short intervals to save fuel, but can’t do whole journeys on battery power.
PLUG-IN HYBRID (PHEV)
A stepping stone to full electrification, plug-in hybrids are a HEV with a larger battery that can be charged from a mains electricity supply. A typical range of around 25-30 miles means local journeys can be completed without any tailpipe emissions, and drivers can refuel like a petrol or diesel car when going further. Their low CO2 figures offer tax advantages for business users, but real-world fuel economy is dependent on regular charging. Frequent long-distance drivers may be better off in an efficient HEV, or a conventional diesel car.
BATTERY ELECTRIC VEHICLE (BEV)
Battery electric vehicles have no combustion engine at all. These feature an even larger-capacity battery supplying power to one or more electric motors, and the technology is advancing quickly. There’s an ever-increasing choice of vehicle types available, most new models offer a range in excess of 200 miles, and ever-faster charging means drivers can replenish a large share of that range in an hour or less. With rated CO2 emissions of 0g/km, BEVs also qualify for the most attractive financial incentives for fleets.
FUEL CELL ELECTRIC VEHICLE (FCEV)
Fuel cell vehicles are essentially BEVs that can make their own electricity, instead of storing that energy in a large battery. The system combines atmospheric oxygen with hydrogen stored on board, producing electricity to drive the car. Range and refuelling times are similar to liquid fuels, but the technology is expensive and environmental benefits rely on a growing supply of hydrogen made from renewable energy. Renault and Stellantis are both working towards solutions for long-range vans, where a BEV’s heavy batteries would compromise payload.