Anachronisms / Glossary
The electric vehicle world has its own little lingo surrounding it. Many times, articles and information on electrics or alt-fuel vehicles will be riddled with jargon that many who aren’t insiders in this clique won’t understand. In the same
way a football player is probably not going to understand most of what’s being said at a computer convention, those who are not part of the geek squad of electric vehicles technology probably won’t understand what’s being said there either.
Well, don’t tell anybody, but I’m going to break the rules and tell you what all those strange-sounding anachronisms and terms actually mean. I could get in trouble for this, so keep your mouth shut and pay attention.
We’ll start with the secret handshake..
Biodiesel – most people know what this stuff is. It’s that diesel fuel made by hippies like Willie Nielson. The thing is, you won’t often hear the term “biodiesel” from alt-fuel geeks. Instead, you’ll hear “B5″ or “B20.” No, it’s not some secret pot-smoker code, it’s just how some of us refer to the diesel/biodiesel mixture. B5 is 5% biologically-based (plants) and 95% petroleum based (oil). B20 is 20% biological. There ya go.
Butanol – this is the kryptonite of the ethanol world. Why? Because it kicks the hell out of that crap they make from corn and pretend is a gasoline replacement. Butanol actually can replace gasoline, since it has about 97% of its BTUs per gallon. Unlike ethanol, which requires a bunch of conversions to the car to make it run on it in anything but tiny quantities. Unless you’re in Brazil. Then everyone is wearing bikinis and driving cars already-made to run on ethanol. That’s thanks to our government’s brainiac idea to save the beet farmers in the 60s. Really, look it up.
CAFE – this is the way that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or “nosy government types”) gauge a car company’s overall performance for fuel economy. When you look at a new car on the lot, the sticker tells you it’s rated miles per gallon (MPG) numbers. Right? Well, those same numbers are used on entire car companies. So Ford, GM, Toyota, and all the rest have an MPG too. It’s called the Corporate Average Fuel Economy rating. The European Union has one too. It’s called the something-something-in-French standard, or SNOB for short.
Ethanol – is nasty stuff. It’s made from a bunch of different plants – pretty much any plant that has a relatively high sugar level can be boiled down and distilled into ethanol. Like biodiesel, ethanol is often referred to by an E number. E85, E10, and so forth. Most of the time in the midwest, when you buy ethanol at the pump, you’re getting E10. In the winter, you’re getting less of it for your buck thanks to thermodynamics.
EV – electric vehicle. Nuff said.
ER-EV – extended range electric vehicle. Basically an electric car with some kind of engine or alternative energy source for making the car go further once the battery is dead. Usually, this is a gasoline engine, but it could be just about anything that somehow stores power. Clock towers with electric cables and a lightning strike are an example.
Hydrogen – (aka Gas of the Gods) is stuff that exists all over the place, just not necessarily in usable form. Often referred to by its scientific name “hydrogen” (say it with a Latin accent) or by its periodic element reference “H2″, this stuff is most often referred to in conjunction with the term “fuel cell” or HFC. A fuel cell is a catalyst that combines hydrogen and oxygen (H2 and O) to make, you guessed it.. champagne. Err.. water. Right. In the process, an electron is captured and used to power electric stuff. HFC (hydrogen fuel cell) and FCEV (fuel cell electric vehicle) are other ways to mention this stuff.
ICE – means internal combustion engine. This term is usually used amongst electric vehicle enthusiasts in the same way the rest of us might refer to dog poop, the IRS, or Leonard Nemoy’s poetry.
LEV – light electric vehicle. Basically, this means scooters and bicycles that are electric.
Li-ion – just means lithium-ion, which is a kind of battery. Lithium is a rock, basically, and it’s part of an overall design that is way too complicated to explain, but it stores electricity really well. It’s what your laptop computer’s batteries are made of. Which, incidentally, is where Tesla Motors got their batteries for the Roadster. Really, no lie. You mght see variances of Li-ion being used, like LiFePO4 (lithium-iron phosphorous). These are just fancy chemical terms for new kinds of lithium batteries. EV geeks just spout them to look cool.
NEV – neighborhood electric vehicle, which is another way of saying, “I spent a lot of money on a car that goes 25mph.” An NEV is basically any vehicle that resembles a car and is only capable of “neighborhood” speeds (usually 35mph or less). They require no safety testing, no registration (usually) and are only allowed on streets that are not highways. Glorified golf carts is my favorite name for them.
NiMH – are nickel-metal hydride batteries. These are what’s in the Toyota Prius and what used to be in GM’s EV1, before they killed the electric car and stuff. It’s also what your home rechargeables are made from, probably.
PHEV – Plug-in electric vehicle. This is basically halfway between a hybrid (ICE boosted by an electric) and an ER-EV (electric with an engine to make it go further). In the end, though, the term is often used to refer to ER-EVs anyway. Be aware that if you say “PHAT PHEV” at a party, you will be shunned.
SVO – (aka “greasel”) is straight vegetable oil. Most people don’t realize that diesel engines were originally designed to run on vegetable oil. Yep, that same stuff you cook with. A lot of people are going back to their roots and converting their diesels to run on greasel instead. If a car drives by and smells like french fries, though, it’s probably running on WVO (waste vegetable oil). Basically the same thing, except the oil’s already been used once for something else.
TDI / TSI – no, this is not the latest “look at dead people a lot, then arrest someone” show. They are types of diesel injection that are much alike, but are used in different applications. A TDI is a Turbo-charged Direct Injection and it is what the Audi and VW vehicles won the Green Car of the Year Award with the last two years running. TSI is Turbo Stratified Injection and is what is most common in large-block diesel engines like you’d find in a big rig or a train. Both are high-efficiency engine types with low emissions technologies.
ZEV – zero emissions vehicle, which refers to a vehicle that emits nothing from the tailpipe. EVs and HFCs are all ZEVs too. Confusing enough?