Fuel Engine & Electric Drive Vehicles: comparison - consumption

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


Every vehicle needs to overcome resistive forces in order to drive. The car's prime-mover (motor) develops the necessary force in order to accelerate and get the vehicle to the desired speed.
In conventional thermal vehicles, fuel is burnt in the internal combustion engine's cylinders and the pressure-driven linear reciprocating motion of its pistons is converted into rotary movement. Force and rotational speed are transferred and adjusted -mechanically- through the driveline up to the wheels generating vehicle motion. Driving efficiency is limited due to the energy conversion process in the engine where the heat released during combustion of the fuel is converted to mechanical power. Most energy is lost as heat in the engine block and the exhaust gasses, and only a fraction is effectively used to propel the vehicle.
In electric vehicles (EV), the prime-mover is an electric machine providing mechanical power at its output shaft with which the wheels are brought to rotation through the mechanical driveline. The main power supply is provided by a rechargeable traction battery, which is an electrochemical storage system. Between EV battery and electric motor, there is a power electronic interface, acting as the power flow controller to the driving machine and vice versa. In electric vehicles, energy stored in the battery can be converted more efficiently to drive the wheels due to the good performance of the electric drive chain: high transfer efficiency of the power electronic converter, and low losses during electromechanical energy conversion in the motor. The electrochemical process in the battery also introduces some losses. Also during charging, when the battery is replenished with energy from the grid (mains supply), some losses occur in the charger, which can be either on-board (typically for standard charging, up to semi-fast) or off-board (typically for fast charging).
Between the two extremes of thermal and electric vehicles, there is a range of hybrid electric vehicle varieties. Depending on the size of the electric energy storage system and its functionality, there is a spectrum ranging from mild hybrids to full hybrids, and the latest development of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles that can be charged externally from the utility grid and have a considerable all-electric range.
In this document, an overview of the different vehicle propulsion technologies is described and the energy consumption performance of ICE vehicles and electric drive propulsion is presented. The 'Blue Map Scenario' presented by the International Energy Agency envisages annual sales of millions of battery electric vehicles (BEV) and Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PiHEV) in the near future.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherElectrabel GDF SUEZ
Publication statusPublished - 24 Feb 2014


  • Electric vehicles
  • ICE vehicles
  • Well-to-wheel
  • Hybrid electric vehicles


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