The market for electrified light-duty vehicles (also called passenger vehicles; including passenger cars, pickup trucks, SUVs, and minivans) has grown since the 1990s. During this decade, the first contemporary hybrid-electric vehicle debuted on the global market, followed by the introduction of other types of electric vehicles (EVs). By 2018, electric vehicles made up 4.2% of the 16.9 million new light-duty vehicles sold in the United States that year. Meanwhile, charging infrastructure grew in response to rising electric vehicle ownership, increasing from 3,394 charging stations in 2011 to 78,301 in 2019. However, many locations have sparse or no public charging infrastructure.
Electric motors and traction battery packs—most commonly made up of lithium-ion battery cells—set EVs apart from internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs). The battery pack provides power to the motor that drives the vehicle. At times, the motor acts as a generator, sending electricity back to the battery. The broad categories of EVs can be identified by whether they have an internal combustion engine (i.e., hybrid vehicles) and whether the battery pack can be charged by external electricity (i.e., plug-in electric vehicles). The numerous vehicle technologies further determine characteristics such as fuel economy rating, driving range, and greenhouse gas emissions. EVs can be separated into three broad categories:
- Hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs): The internal combustion engine primarily powers the wheels. The battery pack and electric motor provide supplemental power.
- Plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles (PHEVs): The battery pack can be charged by an external source of electricity. Depending on the model, primary power to the wheels may be supplied by the battery pack and electric motor, the internal combustion engine, or a combination.
- All-electric vehicles (AEVs; also called battery-electric vehicles or BEVs): The battery pack must be charged via an external source of electricity. The battery pack and electric motor power the wheels.