Electric Vehicles

What is an Electric Vehicle?

Electric-drive vehicles utilize electricity to power their motors, instead of using conventional vehicle fuels like gasoline and diesel. The electricity is stored inside a battery, which must be periodically recharged by plugging in the vehicle to an outside power source, or through methods of capturing energy that is normally lost in braking, known as regenerative braking.

There are three different categories of electric vehicles : all-electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and hybrid electric vehicles.

  • All-Electric Vehicles (EVs) use only electrical energy stored in a battery to power their motors. The battery is charged by plugging the vehicle into the grid at a charging station, or through regenerative braking. EVs do not produce any tailpipe emissions, but their range on a “full tank” is not as far as that of a vehicle powered by conventional fuels. Typically, a fully charged EV has a range of 70 to 90 miles, depending on driving habits and conditions. Neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs) are small electric vehicles used for everyday commuting, light hauling, or delivery, and have limited top speeds.  The typical NEV cannot exceed 35 mph. Their efficiency and compactness makes them ideal for off-road service on college campuses, airports, or resort areas.
  • Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) use both a battery to power an electric motor and a conventional fuel to power an internal combustion engine (ICE). The batteries of PHEVs can be charged from plugging in to the grid, from regenerative braking, or from the ICE. PHEVs primarily rely on the battery, and the ICE is used only when battery is mostly depleted, during rapid acceleration or high speeds, or for climate control. Typically, the battery of a PHEV has a driving range of 10 to 40 miles before the ICE. When relying solely on the battery, the PHEV produces no tailpipe emissions. The ICE of a PHEV also produces less emissions than conventional vehicles, and is more efficient in its fuel usage.
  • Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) use a battery that powers an electric motor, and an internal combustion engine. The electricity in the battery is generated by the ICE and regenerative braking.  HEVs cannot be plugged into the grid to be charged. The battery allows for improved efficiency, and can reduce engine idling.

When an electric vehicle is plugged into an outside source, it receives electricity from the power grid, or from stationary renewable energy sources. Although fossil fuel-burning methods of electricity production may contribute to air pollution, electric vehicles themselves are considered zero-emission vehicles because their motors produce no exhaust or tailpipe emissions. When an electric vehicle is paired with a non-polluting method of electricity generation, the entire electrification process can be considered no-emission. Methods of electricity generation that effectively produce no emissions are nuclear, hydroelectric, and all renewables.  The chart below displays the types of fuels used for electricity generation in Virginia.

For more information, visit the Alternative Fuel Data Center’s web page on electric vehicles.

What Electric Vehicles are Available?

Many different electric vehicles have been made widely available on the U.S. and Virginia markets. Many models of light-duty vehicles are available, as well as some medium and heavy-duty vehicles.

The Clean Cities 2016 Vehicle Buyer’s Guide, linked below, provides information on available electric vehicles for light-duty vehicles of the model year 2016.

For up-to-date and comprehensive lists of available EV, PHEV, and HEV models, visit the Alternative Fuel Data Center page on electric vehicle availability, or fueleconomy.gov

What Charging Equipment is Available?

Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) is the equipment used to charge Plug-in Electric Vehicles (PEVs) from an electricity source. EVSE ensures that electric vehicles are safely charged to the appropriate battery capacity. There are three main types of EVSE: Level 1, Level 2, and DC fast charging. The table below displays the differences between the three options.


Charger Type Alternating or Direct Current Amperage Voltage Power Range per Hour of Charging
Level 1 Alternating 12-16 Amps 120 Volts 1.3-1.9 kiloWatts 2-5 miles
Level 2 Alternating Up to 80 Amps 208-240 Volts Up to 19.2 kiloWatts 10-20 miles
DC Fast Charging Direct Up to 200 Amps 208-600 Volts 50-150 kiloWatts 60-80 miles
  • Level 1 chargers utilize alternating current, and are primarily used for residential and workplace charging due to their long charge time. Almost every PEV comes with Level 1 charging capabilities. The Level 1 charging cord has a standard, three-prong American household plug on one end, and a J1772 standard connector plug on the end that plugs into the vehicle. The J1772 receptacle is shown in the Image below, on the right.

    Charging receptacles in an electric vehicle. The standard J1772 electric power receptacle (right) can receive power from Level 1 or Level 2 charging equipment. The CHAdeMO DC fast charge receptacle (left) uses a different type of connector.

    Photo by Andrew Hudgins, NREL 19558

  • Level 2 chargers also utilize alternating current, but at a higher voltage and amperage, and are able to charge vehicles more quickly than Level 1 chargers. They are still primarily used for residential and workplace charging, but are sometimes used for public charging. Level 2 chargers also use the J1772 connector plug, but must have hard-wired charging equipment and cannot be plugged into a standard wall outlet.
  • DC fast charging utilizes direct current and can deliver much more power than Level 1 or Level 2 chargers. DC fast chargers are used primarily for public charging. Most DC fast chargers use the CHAdeMO connector, shown in the image above, on the left.

For more information, visit the Alternative Fuel Data Center’s page on EV infrastructure.


Data and information attained from the Clean Cities publications “Hybrid and Plug-In Electric Vehicles” and “Plug-In Electric Vehicle Handbook for Workplace Charging Hosts”, available online at https://cleancities.energy.gov/publications.


  1. Brian nester says:

    I am converting a gas car to electric. Do you know what the state of Virginia require to register and for inspections? Thanks

    1. Kayla Cook says:

      Yes you must register it and get it inspected.

      This the regulation language for Virginia:
      Aftermarket Electric Vehicle (EV) Conversion Regulations
      Any motor vehicle, other than a motorcycle, that has been modified to replace the internal combustion engine with an electric propulsion system must be titled by and registered with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) as a converted EV. DMV converted EV registration requires certification by a certified Virginia safety inspector that the conversion to electric propulsion is complete and proof that the vehicle has passed a Virginia safety inspection. The inspector may charge a fee, not to exceed $40, in addition to any fee imposed for Virginia safety inspection.

      Converted EVs must be equipped with special equipment, including high voltage cables, a temperature monitoring system for traction batteries other than lead acid batteries, and labeling on three sides of the vehicle identifying it as “Converted Electric.” For more information, see the DMV Titling a Converted EV website. (Reference Virginia Code 46.2-602.3, 46.2-625, and 46.2-1001.1)

  2. Anthony Alleva says:

    does Virginia (Newport News) offer any incentives and/or rebates for purchasing an EV?

    1. Kayla Cook says:

      No, Virginia does not currently offer any incentives or rebates for purchasing an EV. There is a federal tax credit of $7500 you can use towards the purchase of an EV.

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