What is Transportation Electrification?

Transportation electrification refers to the shift from traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles that rely on fossil fuels to electric vehicles (EVs) powered by electricity. This transition involves adopting various electric transportation modes, such as electric cars, buses, trucks, trains, and even electric bicycles. The fundamental principle behind transportation electrification is reducing reliance on fossil fuels, lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and mitigating the environmental impacts associated with conventional transportation systems.

Electric vehicles are powered by batteries that store electrical energy, which is then used to propel the vehicle. They produce little to no tailpipe emissions, making them a cleaner and more sustainable alternative to conventional gasoline or diesel vehicles. Transportation electrification offers several benefits:

1. Reduced Emissions: EVs produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants than ICE vehicles. This helps mitigate the impacts of climate change and improves air quality in urban areas.

2. Energy Efficiency: Electric drivetrains are more efficient than internal combustion engines, which means that a larger portion of the energy from the power source is converted into actual vehicle movement.

3. Energy Diversity: Electricity can be generated from various sources, including renewable energy such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric power. This diversification reduces dependence on fossil fuels for transportation energy.

4. Lower Operating Costs: EVs have fewer moving parts and require less maintenance than ICE vehicles, leading to potential savings in maintenance and operational expenses over their lifespan.

5. Technological Innovation: The transition to EVs drives advancements in battery technology, charging infrastructure, and vehicle design, fostering innovation in the automotive industry.

6. Noise Reduction: Electric vehicles are quieter than traditional vehicles, contributing to reduced noise pollution in urban areas.

To facilitate transportation electrification, efforts are being made to expand charging infrastructure, improve battery technology for longer ranges and faster charging, and incentivize the adoption of EVs through policy measures, such as subsidies and emissions regulations. While challenges like range anxiety, upfront costs, and charging infrastructure availability exist, transportation electrification is critical to achieving sustainable and environmentally responsible mobility in the future.

EV Types

Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs)

Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs)

BEVs, or all-electric vehicles, are powered solely by electricity stored in onboard battery packs. They do not have an internal combustion engine and produce zero tailpipe emissions. BEVs are charged by plugging them into charging stations or electrical outlets. They are well-suited for daily commuting and short to medium distances.

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)

Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)

PHEVs combine an internal combustion engine, electric motor, and larger battery. They can operate in all-electric mode for shorter distances before switching to gasoline or another fuel source. PHEVs can be recharged through external charging, and their range varies based on battery size and fuel tank capacity. They offer flexibility for both electric and hybrid driving modes.

Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs)

Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs)

HEVs use an internal combustion engine and an electric motor to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions. Unlike PHEVs, HEVs cannot be plugged in to charge; they use regenerative braking and the engine to charge their small onboard battery. The electric motor assists the engine during acceleration and low-speed driving, reducing fuel consumption.

Extended Range Electric Vehicles (EREVs)

Extended Range Electric Vehicles (EREVs)

EREVs are similar to PHEVs but usually have a larger battery and a smaller gasoline engine. The primary difference is that in EREVs, the gasoline engine only acts as a generator to recharge the battery and does not directly power the wheels. EREVs can drive longer distances solely on electricity before the gasoline engine is used for range extension.

Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs)

Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs)

FCEVs use hydrogen gas and an onboard fuel cell to generate electricity to power an electric motor. The only emission from FCEVs is water vapor, making them very environmentally friendly. They refuel quickly, similar to gasoline vehicles, but require a network of hydrogen refueling stations, which can be limited in availability.

Electric Bicycles (E-Bikes)

Electric Bicycles (E-Bikes)

E-bikes are bicycles equipped with an electric motor and a battery that assists the rider’s pedaling effort. E-bikes come in various forms, including pedal-assist and throttle-controlled models. They extend the range and ease of cycling, making them popular for urban commuting and recreational riding.

Electric Scooters & Motorcycles

Electric Scooters & Motorcycles

Electric motors and batteries power electric scooters and motorcycles. They offer a more environmentally friendly and quiet alternative to their gasoline-powered counterparts. Electric scooters are becoming increasingly popular for short urban trips due to their compact size and low operating costs.

Electric's Benefits

Hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles can help increase energy security, improve fuel economy, lower fuel costs, and reduce emissions.

Using hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles instead of conventional vehicles can help reduce U.S. reliance on imported petroleum and increase energy security. Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) typically use less fuel than similar conventional vehicles because they employ electric-drive technologies to boost efficiency. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and all-electric vehicles (EVs) can use off-board electricity sources, and almost all U.S. electricity is produced from domestic coal, nuclear energy, natural gas, and renewable resources.

Electric's Emissions Reductions

Hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles can have significant emissions benefits over conventional vehicles. HEV emissions benefits vary by vehicle model and type of hybrid power system. EVs produce zero tailpipe emissions, and PHEVs produce no tailpipe emissions when in all-electric mode.

The life cycle emissions of an EV or PHEV depend on the sources of electricity used to charge it, which vary by region. In geographic areas that use relatively low-polluting energy sources for electricity production, plug-in vehicles typically have a life cycle emissions advantage over similar conventional vehicles running on gasoline or diesel. PHEVs and EVs may need to demonstrate a robust life cycle emissions benefit in regions that depend heavily on traditional fossil fuels for electricity generation. Use the Vehicle Cost Calculator to compare the life cycle emissions of individual vehicle models in a given location.

Electric In Action

Tennessee Fleets Using Electric Vehicles (EVs)

City of Kingsport
East Tennessee State University
Eastman Chemical Company
Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority (WeGo Public Transit)
National Park Service (Great Smoky Mountains NP)
Tennessee Valley Authority
Tennessee’s Electric Utility Companies & Cooperatives
The University of Tennessee

What is “EVSE”?

EVSE stands for “Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment” and is the unit you plug into an EV (electric vehicle) when you seek to recharge or refuel it.

What is Workplace Charging?

We have an entire website devoted to this! Visit Drive Electric Tennessee to learn about businesses across the Volunteer State that have installed EVSE at their workplaces, enabling their staff to drive an EV and have a full charge at the end of the workday.

Are you looking to empower your workplace with EV charging? Thanks to funding support from the US Department of Energy, we can provide your workplace with up to $2,000 in free, direct technical assistance and consulting to help you install workplace charging. Visit EMPOWER Workplace Charging TN to learn more!