Thursday, May 23, 2024
FeaturesVolkswagen’s EV 101: Your Quick Electric Vehicle Lexicon

Volkswagen’s EV 101: Your Quick Electric Vehicle Lexicon

Volkswagen has made their EV plans very public and they want everyone to be up to speed on the technology’s terminology.

  • EVs are simpler generally speaking than ICE vehicles.

  • By 2024, they’ll have invested over $37 billion in the technology.

  • They also plan on selling over 1.5 million of them worldwide by 2025.

The near entirety of the automobile industry is currently undergoing a massive shift. The internal combustion engine, which has ruled the car business nearly unchallenged for over a century, will slowly but surely fade into history. Electric powertrains will take over and this change brings with it numerous upsides and advantages.

Volkswagen will quickly establish itself as a mainstream leader in the production of new EVs and in order to make the transition as smooth as possible, has offered a crash-course and the technology’s basic terminologies. Understanding the basics will help consumers be better prepared to shop EVs, namely some of VW’s planned 75 new models before the end of the decade.

Before going moving on, it is important to know that an electric vehicle is extremely efficient. To put in mile-per-gallon terms, a petrol-powered car would have to manage 122 mpg (1.93L/100km) in order to match an EV’s efficiency. The internal combustion engine continues to evolve however is unlikely to ever achieve this mark in an average vehicle.

Here is some of the more commonly used vocabulary with respect to electric vehicles:


Size or capacity is measured in kWh, or kilowatt-hour.

Battery make-up:

Cells are the smallest units. There are usually 24 cells in a module and there are typically 12 modules in a battery pack. Included in the mix is an inverter to convert DC current into AC current to feed the motors. Thermal management systems (for reliability and durability) are also included for the most part.


This is the current standard in electric vehicle batteries. This combination has good energy density, power, and has fast-charging abilities. Volume-wise, they’ve evolved from 230 watt-hours per litre in 2014 to 700 watt-hour per litre in 2020. A lithium-ion battery’s life is estimated at 8 to 10 years.


This is the holy grail of batteries. They are capable of 1,000 watt-hours per litre or more.

Electric Motors

HyperPower Technologies electric motors | Photo: Top EV Racing
AC synchronous (induction) type:

Less expensive type of motor, efficient under lighter loads, and durable.

Permanent magnet type:

More expensive, however extremely efficient (up to 96%) under load, and smaller in size for easier packaging.

Combined, both engine types make for an ideal AWD drivetrain configuration.

Electric Vehicle Output Specifications

Ford Mustang Mach-E 1400 Prototype | Photo: Ford

This is a unit of power and a result of amperes (A) times volt (V) = watts (W).


This is the pressure from the electrical circuit.


This is the strength of the electrical current.


A kilowatt is 1,000 W.


This is a unit of electrical energy used in one hour by one kilowatt of power. Electric car battery size is measured in kilowatt-hours, so think of it as the electric car’s equivalent of gallons of fuel in a tank.



Level 1:

This is a regular home outlet we use to power typical appliances. The outlet delivers 110-120V of alternating current at 15A. Power delivery is of about 1.5 kW. You can get up to 12 miles (19 km) of range per hour.

Level 2:

They supply 230-240V at 30A for a typical 7kW of power. This is the equivalent of an average public or house-hold charging station. You can get up to 25 miles (40 km) of range per hour.

Level 3 or DC Fast Charging:

The fastest (high powered) way to charge electric vehicles with an electrical output ranging from 50kW – 120kW. These are the chargers that can replenish a battery to 80% in roughly 30 minutes.

Plug types for EVs | Photo: Reddit
J1772 Plug:

For Level 1 and Level 2 charging.

CSS plug:

It is becoming the standard for North America. It’s a combination of the J1772 plug with a DC fast charging adaptor.

CHAdeMO plug:

Also capable of fast charging but it is being slowly being replaced by the CSS.

2019 Hyundai Kona Electric | Photo: Hyundai
Charging Speed:

Measured in kWh/minute of charge which eventually translates into range/time of charge. Speeds also decrease as the battery nears the 80% mark.

Charging Capacity:

This is the peak amount of energy that can be transferred at any given time.

Why the 80% state of charge matters:

By 80%, a battery’s capability of accepting electrons reduces dramatically. This translates into diminishing returns. Beyond 80% charge is best done at home, overnight, for example.

Onboard charger:

It converts AC power from the grid into DC energy that can be stored into the battery. It’s rating, be it for example 6.6 or 9.6kW, essentially means that the higher rating will enable a quicker recharge. Costs usually keep capacity down however they are improving.

Regenerative Braking:

This is the energy recovery system used in most electric vehicles which helps charge the battery while the car is slowing down by using the electric motor as a “brake”. Typically the electric motor acts as a generator and sends power back to the battery. Regenerative braking feels like typical engine braking or we’ve become accustomed too with ICE vehicles.


Xpeng P7 | Photo: Xpeng
NEDC rating:

Favors city driving and is essentially no longer accepted as viable.

WLTP rating:

It replaced NEDC in 2019. It favours lower average speeds hence the typically higher range ratings.

US EPA rating:

It leans towards higher average speeds, more suburbs, and highway speeds, also tested in hot and cold temperatures.

While this lexicon is far from complete, it gives most of us a basic idea of what makes an electric vehicle tick.

For some final notes, here are a few things to remember:

Charging an EV need not be complicated at all. It is important to understand that it does not need to be plugged in after every use such as going to the grocery store and back. The best time to charge an EV is during off-peak hours, typically overnight.

EVs are proven to cost less to own, with lower operating and often insurance costs. Most are extremely reliable as well.

Not all EVs are equal. Like petrol- and diesel-powered vehicles, some are more efficient than others. As a general rule of thumb, an efficient EV consumes between 0.33 and 0.25 kWh per mile. Alternatively, an average EV will cover 3.5 miles (5.6 km) per kWh.

GM Hummer
GMC HUMMER EV Logo | Photo: GM


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Matt St-Pierre
Matt St-Pierre
Trained as an Automotive Technician, Matt has two decades of automotive journalism under his belt. He’s done TV, radio, print and this thing called the internet. He’s an avid collector of many 4-wheeled things, all of them under 1,500 kg, holds a recently expired racing license and is a father of two. Life is beautiful. Send Matt an emai


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