are ZEVS but
HPVS are not

It’s transportation acronym time.


First, let’s start with ICE – the Internal Combustion Engine.

Modern-day ICEs are marvels of engineering. Fossil fuel is detonated inside a complex machine of hundreds of parts moving at fantastic speeds – an intricate dance of stress, heat conversion and dissipation which results in pretty cool horsepower and not so cool pollution that requires catalytic converters, recirculation systems and evaporative emissions control. An ICE is filled with oil (principally for lubrication) which gets contaminated, must be replaced, and eventually as the ICE ages – finds its way out of old seals and onto your driveway. The ICE vehicle is essentially an oil tanker on wheels propelled by volatile liquid hydrocarbons. Sensational language, but true.


Now we move onto EV – the Electric Vehicle.

An electric motor isn’t a heat engine. Because it doesn’t burn anything to create mechanical energy, it doesn’t produce exhaust. It doesn’t use oil (no oil changes – ever), has one moving part and is extremely efficient at turning energy into activity by generating a phenomenal amount of torque instantly (see T is for Torque and Beyond the Zombie for evidence). But all vehicles classified as “EVs” are not necessarily pollution-free.

A Hybrid Electric Vehicle (Toyota Prius is a famous example) uses a combination of electric drive and ICE drive to essentially achieve high fuel efficiency. It creates exhaust emissions because it’s constantly shifting back and forth between drivetrains.

A Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle starts out running only on electricity, but when the batteries are depleted, its on-board ICE generator fires up to recharge the batteries (Chevy Volt). While the first all-electric miles are emissions-free, once the ICE kicks in the vehicle is a polluter. And that “range extender” will need oil changes and maintenance.


The only true Zero Emissions Vehicles on the road today are Battery Electric Vehicles and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles. BEVs use only electricity from the batteries whereas FCEVs generate their own electricity in a pollution-free process that requires highly volatile hydrogen gas to be stored on board (see Providing Clarity and Hydrogen(Bomb) for details). Famous BEVs are vehicles built by Tesla and the Nissan Leaf. You could drive a BEV or FCEV around inside an enclosed greenhouse, and produce no namesake gases. You’d still be breathing fresh air.


Try that with a VW diesel.


You might ask “what about a Human Powered Vehicle – such as a bicycle?” Well, even human beings produce emissions (!) – including methane, CO2 and hydrogen sulfide. So technically, they are not ZEVS. It might sound silly, but it’s true.

Only BEVs and FCEVs are ZEVs.

ABOUT The Road Electric


Not the Sparrow Reborn


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are ZEVS but
HPVS are not

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