AC/DC? Common EV terms and jargons explained

Electric vehicles, or ‘EVs’, are the hottest commodity on the block these days – especially with the Malaysian Government recently announcing a 100% tax break for electric vehicles from 2022 onwards.

But with new tech, there is – of course – a massive list of new jargon that almost sounds like a complete new language. ChaDeMo, three-phase AC, WLTP… what do they all mean? If you’re confused, don’t worry – we’ve rounded up a list of the most commonly-seen EV-related terms here to help you out, somewhat like an EV dictionary for the laymen. Yes, you’re welcome.

The latest BEV to make its way into Malaysia – the Hyundai Kona Electric.

Vehicle types

BEV – Battery Electric Vehicle. Technically the correct term for “fully-electric vehicles”, with all of the car’s power source coming from the on-board batteries.

HEV – Hybrid Electric Vehicle. Powered by both an internal combustion engine and electric motor(s). Can be driven plainly on electric power, but does not have a charging port to top-up the batteries directly; charging is usually only done via regenerative braking (self charging).

PHEV – Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle. Vehicles powered by both an internal combustion engine and electric motor(s) (see HEV), and can be plugged-in to charge the batteries directly – usually have bigger batteries than plain self-charging HEVs.

MHEV – Mild-hybrid Electric Vehicle. Internal combustion engine-powered car, with a small electric motor providing additional boost in power. Cannot be driven on electric power alone.

FCEV – Fuel-cell Electric Vehicle. Similar to a BEV, but instead of deriving electric power from a battery, the power is stored in the form of hydrogen fuel (compressed gas) in a fuel cell. A chemical process takes place to convert the hydrogen fuel into electricity.

Range-extender EV – A BEV, but with an additional (smaller) internal combustion engine that functions solely to charge the batteries through a generator. The engine is not connected directly to the drivetrain.


AC – Alternating current, the type of electricity that comes out of your regular electric socket at home. Can’t be used to charge EV batteries unless converted to DC – hence the need for an on-board charger.

DC – Direct current, the type of electricity that’s used in electric vehicles. Most commonly seen referring to DC Fast Chargers.

kW – Kilo Watts, the SI unit of measurement for power usually favoured on EVs. Usually used to annotate an electric motor’s power output; the higher, the better. Also used to denote EV charger output/speed.

kWh – Kilo Watt hours, a measurement of power capacity, used to denote an EV’s battery capacity. The higher the number, the more electricity is stored, and thus the longer the range.


On-board Charger – Electrical device to convert AC electricity to DC directly on the car itself, used during (slower) AC charging. Usually limited to a certain power input (kW) based on design.

DC Fast Charger – The fastest way to charge your EVs, utilising an external high-powered charger to deliver high-power DC electricity (ranging from 50 kW to 300 kW) directly to the car’s batteries, bypassing the on-board charger.

Single phase AC charger (wallbox) – The simpler form of AC charging usually used at home, with power only flowing through one single conductor, resulting in a slower charging speed (around 7.4 kW max).

Three-phase AC charger (wallbox) – More advanced AC charger, with power flowing through three conductors. Supports a higher current delivery, and thus a higher charging speed (up to approx 22 kW). Requires more complicated wiring, which means not every home can support a three-phase AC charger.


Charging… plugs

Type 1 plug – Also known as SAE J1772, a five-pin electric charging plug designed for AC charging. Usually found on Japanese and American EVs.

Type 2 plug – Also known as IEC62196 or Mennekes, a seven-pin electric charging plug designed for AC charging. Commonly found on European EVs, and is quickly becoming the standard charging plug in Malaysia.

ChaDeMo – A DC charging plug, usually only found in (some) Japanese cars. Derived from a Japanese phrase that means “What about tea?” inferring that your car will be fully charged within the time it takes to finish a cup of tea.

CCS – Combined Charging System, which adds two extra prongs on either the Type 1 or Type 2 plugs to support DC fast charging. Used on most DC fast chargers in Malaysia.


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