Important EV Terms for Drivers and Car Dealers to Know

March 24, 2023

Team ACV




Important EV Terms for Drivers and Car Dealers to Know

ACV facts & figures

No items found.
A man charging his used EV while outside

With major car manufacturers across the world, such as General Motors, pledging to leave gas-powered vehicles in the past and develop electric-only catalogs as soon as 2035, there is little doubt that the auto industry is changing1. Electric vehicles (EVs) are the future. In many ways, these vehicles feel surprisingly similar to the gas-powered cars drivers already know and love. However, new technology inevitably means new terminology. Even experienced buyers might need a little extra help getting to know the EVs on your lot. This guide is designed to help dealers and their customers feel more comfortable with EV lingo.

6 Electric Vehicle Terms Every Customer Should Learn

1. EV

Any dealer, manufacturer, or even driver who’s talking about electric vehicles will inevitably refer to their car as an EV, which is simply an abbreviation of the term “electric vehicle.” This shortened form is broadly used to refer to any car that runs primarily on electrical power.

There are also subcategories:

  • Battery electric vehicles (BEV): These vehicles are powered entirely by large battery packs that are nothing like your standard gas-powered car battery. Instead, they’re large, flat packs that weigh around 1,000 pounds and are placed along the bottom of the car, giving the car a low center of gravity2. Most EVs fall under this category.
  • Hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV): These vehicles still have a gas engine, but they’re augmented by electrical power. PHEVs have a small battery pack and can run exclusively on electric power within a certain range, while HEVs tend to rely on a gas engine but use an electric motor to achieve greater efficiency.

2. ICE

Spend enough time reading about automotive technology, and you’ll see references to internal combustion engines or ICEs. An internal combustion engine is the system all gas-powered vehicles use. It creates power by igniting the fuel and directing the energy created toward the motor.

Instead of using an ICE, electric cars use an electric motor, which consists of several layers of copper coil wrapped around a cylinder. When a current is introduced to the motor, it creates a strong magnetic field, which turns a rotor inside the cylinder and subsequently turns the axle that’s directly connected to the wheels3.

3. Charging Levels

One topic that’s discussed at length in the EV world is charging. It’s the only way to refuel an EV, so it’s important to understand how charging works and how it’s talked about. Mechanically, the way an electric car charges is very similar to how a phone or computer does, but EV charging can happen at different speeds and power levels, referred to as levels:  

  • Level 1 charging is done with a regular 120V outlet at a home or business. This is the same type of outlet you use for your everyday appliances, and it supplies a relatively low level of power. Level 1 charging generally takes a full day to completely charge a car.
  • Level 2 charging uses the 240V outlets that large appliances, like ovens and washing machines, use. Level 2 chargers need to be specially installed, but they can charge a car to full overnight. Both methods use AC or alternating current input.
  • Level 3 charging, or DC fast charging, uses a direct current (DC) to transfer power much more quickly. These are the chargers that you’ll find at gas stations along interstates, and they’re designed to give a vehicle as much charge as possible within a 20- to 45-minute window. Many EVs can go from 10% to 80% battery in under an hour4.

4. MPGe

While gas vehicles have an easy-to-measure, widely-agreed upon method of determining fuel efficiency, how to measure EV fuel usage isn’t as cut and dry. To help standardize this measurement, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) came up with the term MPGe or miles per gallon of gasoline-equivalent. To do this, the EPA estimated the amount of electricity needed to create the same amount of energy as one gallon of fuel, which amounted to about 33.7 kilowatt-hours (kWh). When you see an EV rated at 120 MPGe, that means that it can travel approximately 120 miles on 33.7kWh of electric charge5.

5. Regenerative Braking

Unlike gas vehicles, which use brake pads and drums to create friction and slow the vehicle, EVs and hybrids use a technique called regenerative braking. This technique saves energy, recharges the battery slightly, and reduces wear on the system. It works by reversing the direction that the electric motor powering the wheels spins in. Instead of turning electricity into momentum, it uses momentum to spin the motor and create electricity, charging the battery and slowing the vehicle down6.

6. Torque

Torque is the name for the twisting force the wheels and axles experience as they begin to turn. Torque is such a hot topic for EVs because electric motors generate torque spontaneously, rather than gradually, the way ICE vehicles do. Torque is often used to measure how much power and acceleration an EV can achieve, and the number tends to be much higher than that of gas-powered vehicles. This leads to zippy acceleration at the cost of heavier wear on the tires.

Prepare Your Dealership for EV Success

The used car market is evolving rapidly, and ACV Auctions is here to help you stay ahead of the curve. Our user-friendly auction platform helps dealers find quality vehicles across the country and learn about their condition before bidding. Sign up today to start building your used EV watch list.


  1. Eisenstein, P. (28 January 2021). GM to go all-electric by 2035, phase out gas and diesel engines. NBC News. Retrieved March 15, 2023, from
  2. Electric car battery weight explained. EVBox. Retrieved March 15, 2023, from 
  3. Sage, S. (19 May 2022). How do electric cars work? EV motors and batteries explained. digitaltrends. Retrieved March 15, 2023, from 
  4. Wiesenfelder, J. (25 August 2021). Electric Vehicles: Understanding the Terminology. Retrieved March 15, 2023, from 
  5. Ganz, A. (11 October 2022). What is MPGe? Everything You Need to Know. Kelley Blue Book. Retrieved March 15, 2023, from
  6. Brandt, E. (8 August 2022). Regenerative Brakes: How Do They Work? Kelley Blue Book. Retrieved March 15, 2023, from
  7. What Is Torque? Why Is It Important In Electric Cars? Retrieved March 15, 2023, from