We Really Need To Get The EV Jargon Under Control

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On reddit recently (yes, I know reddit is full of these guys), I saw a very disconcerting post about EVs. Someone new to EVs showed up and felt hopelessly lost.

“For the love of god! Could you guys please provide the meaning of all the acronyms you use so that plain people like myself can actually understand your posts?? What is NACS? I could go on, but please…I come here to learn from you but I cannot understand the alphabet soup on this site.”

I perused the r/electricvehicles area of reddit, and took a fresh look at what it might be like as a total EV n00b to decode it. In other words, I pretended I was my grandmother looking through this for a few minutes (my sharper grandmother who passed away earlier this year, not my other grandmother with dementia).

I figured out pretty quickly that anyone who doesn’t know the jargon and acronyms would feel about like I did the first time I watched Ghostbusters as a kid and saw this scene:

For those who won’t or can’t click the video (or those who come later if this video goes POOF on YouTube), it’s the scene where Louis Tully (possessed by Vinz Clortho, the Keymaster) gives a brief history of Gozer’s acts of destruction. But, it’s so laden with words we don’t understand that nobody can really make heads or tails of what he’s saying.

It went something like this (I’ve seen different spellings, this comes from IMDB):

“Gozer the Traveler. He will come in one of the pre-chosen forms. During the rectification of the Vuldrini, the traveler came as a large and moving Torg! Then, during the third reconciliation of the last of the McKetrick supplicants, they chose a new form for him: that of a giant Slor! Many Shuvs and Zuuls knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of the Slor that day, I can tell you!”

While we don’t know what Vuldrini, Slor, Shuv, or Zuul means, we do know that Gozer chooses the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man for their next form, and literally gets roasted by the Ghostbusters, so it doesn’t matter. But, people who depend on a car for their daily transportation can’t say the same. If you’re counting on the thing to get to work, it matters a lot!

So, if we want EVs and the EV community to get better at increasing EV adoption, we’d better become more skilled ambassadors. Telling people things like, “It’s not my job to educate you,” or, “You should Google it,” simply isn’t going to cut it. Instead, we should be a lot quicker to help people with these questions, or at the very minimum, not be ugly to them when they ask.

Or, better yet, maybe we should make conversations about EVs more accessible. Sure, we could make glossaries of common EV terms for people to look up, but that’s not ideal. What we really want is for people to be able to jump right into the conversation and understand what’s being said immediately. After all, if they’re already speaking the same language, isn’t that the goal?

Some Ideas To Simplify EV Jargon

First, let’s talk about EVs, BEVs, HEVs, and PHEVs. Basically, the only thing the average person will understand about any of that is EV (Electric Vehicle). Everything else is just going to confuse people, and even when we explain that H stands for Hybrid, P stands for Plug-In, and B stands for battery, there’s still a lot of confusing overlap. All of these vehicles have batteries (even if really small). PHEVs are also HEVs. All of them are a type of EV.

Instead, maybe we should stick with something like “pure EV” or “all-electric” instead of BEV. For the others, simply using our words is probably better. Everyone knows what a hybrid is, and nearly everyone will know what a plugin hybrid is.

Charging is another area where potential EV buyers can find our conversations inaccessible. The average person doesn’t know what NACS, CCS, or CHAdeMO are, and they really shouldn’t have to learn. Instead of NACS, let’s just stick with “Tesla-style plug” or “Tesla plug,” because everyone knows what a Tesla is. We could even go with Supercharger plug, because everyone knows what a Supercharger is.

CCS and CHAdeMO are a little trickier, because they’re not associated with one familiar brand. Perhaps we could call it the “government plug” or even the “legacy plug” if you want to be slightly ugly about it. But, you’ll be understood more often by n00bs. Instead of CHAdeMO, let’s just call it the “Japanese plug” or “old Japanese plug” if in the United States.

Also, let’s completely forget about EVSE pedantry. Yes, the Level 2 charge cord that comes with cars is technically not a “charger” because it supplies power to the car’s internal charger. But, a Level 3 (or, DCFC) station is actually a charger. But, can we expect the average person who doesn’t know a coil pack from a dipstick on an ICE car to know the difference? NO. Let’s just let people say “charger,” because we know what they mean!

The levels of charging is another thing that people have been pedantic about, and it’s something I’ve discussed before. Sure, there’s some SAE document you can look up that defines the levels, but nobody really follows it. Some of what it describes (different levels of DC charging for example) hasn’t been embraced by the industry.

So, let’s simplify this. Levels 1 through 3 should be valid, but we should be ready to explain them to a new person. Or, we could say “trickle charge,” “slow charge,” and “fast charge” (this is a good, easy answer if someone asks what the levels are).

Kilowatt (kW) versus kilowatt-hour (kWh) is harder because they’re useful units of measure. This is an area where many people are actually going to need to learn something new. Today, most people don’t know what a horsepower really is, or what a pound-foot of torque is, but they do know that more is better and have a rough idea of what a 200-horsepower car feels like versus one with a lot more power. So, this won’t be a hard one to learn if we’re patient and try to be helpful.

What weird acronyms can you think of that we could make more accessible to potential and new EV buyers? Tell us about them in the comments and share your ideas for making them more accessible.

Featured image: a screenshot from the film Ghostbusters. Fair use.

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 1770 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba