Mastering the Language of EVs: Insights from Legacy EV Education Team

If you’re new to the world of Tesla, and electric vehicles in general, all of the jargon being thrown around might leave your head spinning. This confusion is completely understandable as electric powertrains are a completely different beast than their fire-breathing counterparts. However, regardless of your background, the intoxicating torque delivery and sustainability of electric motors should be an option for all of us.

Let Legacy EV take the head-scratching out of the equation for you and break down some common EV terms and acronyms.


kW stands for kilowatts and is a measure of total power available in an EV. To convert from kilowatts to horsepower simply multiply kilowatts by 1.34. Many EV systems will have two values of kilowatts, peak and continuous. Continuous kilowatts is the amount of power an EV can put down indefinitely. Peak kilowatts is the amount of power an EV can produce under maximum load situations such as maximum acceleration.


An acronym for battery management system. A battery management system is a way to monitor and control battery pack health to ensure performance, safety, and long term reliability. A BMS uses wires known as cell taps to monitor the individual battery cells in series and communicate with other systems accordingly.


An acronym for Internal Combustion Engine. ICE is a convenient and efficient way to lump all gas and diesel engines together. If it burns fossil fuels to provide power to the wheels, it’s an ICE.

Direct Drive

Electric motors put out enough torque throughout every step in their rev range that most don’t need multigear transmissions. Instead they use direct drive, which is often coupled with gear reduction for optimal performance.


Electric vehicles use inverters to take the high-voltage, high current DC electric power found in EV battery packs and convert it to AC power for the EV’s motor(s). AC power provides the best control of speed and torque in an electric vehicle.

kWh- EV battery pack size is often measured in kWh or kilowatt hour. A kilowatt hour is the amount of electrical energy consumption of 1,000 watts for one hour.

Miles per kWh

Miles per kWh is a measurement of an electric vehicle’s efficiency and is determined by a wide range of factors including vehicle aerodynamics, powertrain efficiency, driving conditions, and more.

DC Fast-charging

DC fast charging is the fastest way to charge electric vehicles with an output ranging from 50kW to 120kW. Depending on the battery pack size, DC fast charging can fully charge an electric vehicle in an hour or less. DC fast charging is sometimes referred to as Level-3 charging, however this a misnomer as there is no level officially classified as Level-3.

Level-2 Charging

Level-2 charging supplies 240 volts to the battery charger. Faster than Level-1 charging, but slower than DC fast charging, this is the most common charging type available.

Level-1 Charging

Level-1 charging supplies 120 volts to the battery charger and is the slowest charging type available.


An acronym for onboard battery charger. An onboard battery charger converts AC electrical power to DC power to charge the large battery pack in an EV.


An acronym for Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment. An EVSE supplies electric energy to recharge electric vehicles. This is also known as a charging station and can likely be found at your local college campus, natural grocery store, and luxury apartment complex. Given the current trends, in time EVSEs will be as common as gas stations.

Regenerative Braking

Regenerative braking allows us to recover some of the kinetic energy of a moving EV and convert it back into electricity to charge the battery. In an EV equipped with regenerative braking, the motor will drive the wheels during acceleration and cruising, but during deceleration the wheels will drive the motor, allowing it to act as a generator for the batteries. Regenerative braking can not only increase the range and efficiency of an EV, but is also an important factor in how an EV feels when it is being driven. Regenerative braking is often referred to as regen.

That’s it for now, but stay tuned for more helpful EV terms from the talented education team at Legacy EV!


Words and photos by the Legacy EV Education Team

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