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Definition: electric vehicle

(Electric Vehicle) An automobile that is powered entirely or partially by electricity from a battery that requires recharging. Although prototype electric vehicles (EVs) were invented in the 1800s and various models were built in the 1900s, the EV industry only began in earnest after the turn of the 21st century. However, by 2025, hundreds of EV models are expected globally. As of 2021, Tesla is the leader in this field (see Tesla).

Pollution Free and Better Fuel Economy
The advantage of an EV is the lack of pollution in the atmosphere along with fuel economy. All-electric models can reach or exceed the equivalent of 75 MPG. However, they all have a distance limit, from approximately 80 to 300 miles. Just like running out of gas, when the battery runs out, they have to be charged. As of 2020, there were approximately 20,000 charging stations across the U.S.; however, to meet expected growth by 2025, there is an estimated need for nearly 200,000 more.

Hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs) have no distance limit but are less economical with fuel; generally no more than 50 MPG. In 2010, GM introduced the plug-in HEV (PHEV) Chevrolet Volt, which lasted until 2019. The Volt is a gas-powered car that runs on battery for short distances, allowing commuters to enjoy great economy when plugged into their home's electric panel overnight. The Volt can last up to 50 miles on its electric charge, at which time its combustion engine takes over.

A regular hybrid-electric vehicle such as the Toyota Prius is refilled only with gas, and the vehicle charges the battery. Introduced in 1997, the Prius technology switches automatically between the electric motors and gas engine. Toyota came out with a plug-in hybrid in 2012. See electric aviation and electric vehicle types.

First EV for the Masses
General Motors built and leased more than a thousand EV1 electric cars from 1996 to 1999 to meet California's environmental deadline. However, the EV program gave way to low-emission gas and hybrid gas-electric cars. This car is in the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C.

First-Generation Tesla Roadster
Featuring zero emissions and great handling, Tesla Roadsters from 2008 to 2012 had a range of 200 miles, a 125 MPH top speed and 0-to-60 in four seconds. Newer models doubled the speed and tripled the range. (Image courtesy of Tesla Motors, www.teslamotors.com)

Hybrid Diesel Electric
Hybrid electric buses have been operating in New York since 1998. Using low-sulfur diesel fuel and smaller diesel engines, these vehicles produce a fraction of the emissions of a standard diesel bus.