Automotive Technology Glossary

Automotive Technology Terminology

Automotive Technology Terminology and Definitions

Whether you are an entrepreneur interested in starting your own automotive technology startup or an enthusiast looking to learn more about the latest technology for your car, you will likely discover new terminology, their meanings, as well as commonly used industry acronyms that may not be well defined in a standard dictionary.

# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Auto Start Stop

The automatic start-stop feature utilizes software to automatically shut the engine off once the vehicle comes to a stop, and then restart it once the driver releases the brake pedal (or applies the acceleration pedal). This feature eliminates wasted fuel of an idling gas engine, which causes overall mpg to climb significantly and tailpipe emissions to drop, especially in congested traffic situations. The vehicle driver can barely feel (if at all) this whole process taking place.

Autonomous Car

Refer to “Autonomous Vehicle”

Autonomous Vehicle

An autonomous vehicle (also called a self-driving car) is one in which vehicle operation occurs without direct human driver input to control the steering, acceleration, and braking. They are principally designed so that the vehicle's passenger is not required to monitor the roadway.

Automated Car

Refer to “Autonomous Vehicle”

Car Sharing

Car sharing refers to a model of car rental where vehicles are rented out for shorter periods of time (usually on a per hour basis) and often intended for shorter distance trips in urban areas where personal car ownership can be challenging.

Clean Diesel Technology

Clean diesel technology refers to an overall approach in modern diesel vehicles that combines Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel fuel, with new highly efficient diesel engines, and emission control measures. The result of clean diesel technology is an generally low emission and highly fuel efficient producing engine.

Driverless Car

Refer to “Autonomous Vehicle”

Electric Car Controller

Refer to “Motor Controller (Control Unit)”

Electric Vehicle

Electric cars (also called EVs) are those vehicles that are powered by an electric motor drawing current from recharging batteries, fuel cells, or other portable sources of electrical current.

Electric Vehicle Battery

An electric vehicle battery is a rechargeable, onboard battery used to power the vehicle’s electric motor. The battery is usually comprised of a series of battery packs, which are mounted in lower-center-of-gravity part of the car. The battery can be recharged externally (e.g. charging station), via regenerative braking, or other onboard methodology.

Electric Vehicle Motor

Without getting into the technical jargon, a an electric car motor functions in the same basic way as the one that makes a fan turn. Electric vehicle motors are quite simple, in that they only have one moving part - the drive shaft inside the motor. All electric vehicle motors are powered by the same thing (stored electricity), however, subtle differences include standard-voltage differences, and some motors opting to use AC current (like a wall outlet), while others are opt to use DC current (true battery power).

Fuel Cell (Hydrogen)

A (Hydrogen) fuel cell is a device that utilize hydrogen gas to produce electricity, which is then used to power an electric motor, and ultimately propel a vehicle. Inside the fuel cell, electricity is produced through a chemical reaction between the source fuel (i.e. Hydrogen) and an oxidant.

Fuel Cell Stack (Hydrogen)

A fuel cell stack is a grouping of individual fuel cells, grouped together to achieve greater power output. Some fuel cell stacks contain hundreds of individual fuel cells, each producing less than one volt. Since the individual cells generate relatively small amounts of electricity, the higher the number of cells in a stack, the higher the output voltage. Together, these fuel cell stacks produce enough power to propel a vehicle.

Full Hybrid

In a full hybrid, the vehicle can operate in series mode, parallel mode, or all-electric mode. Full hybrids have powerful enough electric motors and batteries to drive the vehicle, independently. This unique design makes them the most efficient hybrid among other types of hybrid vehicles.

Hybrid Electric Vehicle

A hybrid electric vehicle (also referred to as an "HEV") is a type of hybrid vehicle that combines a conventional internal combustion engine propulsion system with an electric motor propulsion system. This is the most common type of hybrid car available.

Hybrid Vehicle

A hybrid vehicle is one which uses more than one form of energy for power and propulsion. The most common type of hybrid car uses an internal combustion engine and battery-powered electric motor. Hybrid cars can be further classified into various categories, including Parallel Hybrids, Series Hybrids, Full Hybrids, Mild Hybrids, Plug In hybrids, and “Mini Hybrids”.

Hydrogen Powered Vehicle

A hydrogen car, is one that uses hydrogen as its main fuel source. Hydrogen cars have an electric motor and a fuel cell, which is why they are sometimes called a FCV (Fuel Cell Vehicle) or FCEV (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle).


Refer to “Auto Start Stop”


Refer to “Auto Start Stop”

LIDAR (Laser Illuminating Detection and Ranging)

The LIDAR unit, which looks like a spinning siren light, continuously scans the world around the autonomous car and builds a 3D omni-directional view to allow the car to see potential hazards by bouncing a laser beam off of surfaces surrounding the car in order to accurately determine the identity and distance of the object. The rotating LIDAR units are normally mounted to the top of the car, providing an unobstructed 360-degree view. This unit generates raw information about the world, which is then sent to the car's brain to process; just like a human driver would.

Motor Controller (Control Unit)

In an electric motor setting, a power control unit will manage and govern the flow of electricity sent to the motor. It can be thought of as the “brain” of the motor, and essentially prevents the electric motor from burning out. The amount of electricity converted and fed to the electric motor, is based on the input received from the accelerator pedal, which tells the vehicle how fast to go. Controllers can be either alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC).

Mild Hybrid

In a mild hybrid, a gasoline-powered engine is the primary mode of propulsion. An electric motor/generator operates in parallel, but will only kick in when the car needs additional power, such as during acceleration. The electric motor typically does not not have sufficient power to move the car by itself and only assists the gasoline-powered engine (or allows it to switch off when the car is idling).

Mini Hybrid

In a mini hybrid, the vehicle uses only a small amount of electricity to help with its “Stop-Start" system. Some automakers have intentionally avoided using the term "hybrid" with this system because it believes, that consumers have greater expectations for anything labeled "hybrid." Because “mini hybrids” do not offer full hybrid capabilities, they can be built using very small and relatively inexpensive batteries to keep costs down.

Parallel Hybrid

In a parallel hybrid, both the electric motor and combustion engine work together to power the vehicle. In most setups, the electric motor only provides an extra boost, with regenerative braking being the sole source of re-charging the battery. Parallel hybrids are often the simplest and least expensive type of hybrid technology. In addition, their preferential efficiency is achieved during highway driving at higher, more constant speeds.

Plug In Hybrid

In a plug in hybrid (also referred to as a “PHEV”), the vehicle can be solely propelled by an electric motor for at least ten miles, without consuming any gasoline. Plug in hybrids have larger than normal, high-capacity batteries, thus, they can drive on electric power far further than other hybrids. Since plug in hybrids can be driven by the motor and batteries alone, they work more like a conventional electric car. Plug in hybrid batteries are recharged at public charging stations or via a domestic power supply.

Range Anxiety

Range anxiety refers to the fear or worry experienced by a driver of an electric car that the vehicle has insufficient range (battery) to reach the destination or a suitable charging point. The concern is that the vehicle will run out of power and strand the vehicle's occupants. The term is primarily used in reference to battery powered electric vehicles (BEVs).

Regenerative Braking

Regenerative brakes are the next generation of vehicle braking, where a portion of the vehicles normally wasted momentum when slowing or coasting downhill is absorbed and converted it into usable electricity. This electricity is fed into the electric motor, which can applies resistance to the drivetrain and cause the wheels to slow down. It can also use the generated energy to turn the motor, which functions as a generator, and propel the vehicle. Unused energy is stored in the vehicle’s onboard rechargeable battery until needed. Regenerative braking is insufficient to stop a car quickly, so conventional hydraulic brakes are still necessary.

Ride Sharing

Ride sharing refers to the act of sharing a vehicle for monetary or non-monetary benefit with passengers to provide personal convenience, environmental benefit, and reduced congestion on public roads.

Robotic Car

Refer to “Autonomous Vehicle”

Self-Driving Car

Refer to “Autonomous Vehicle”

Series Hybrid

In a series hybrid, only the electric motor is responsible for providing power to the wheels. The gasoline engine is not coupled to the wheels and does not provide power directly to the car. The gasoline engine powers the electric motor, which is charged by the battery pack or generator. A controller in the transmission determines how much power is needed to propel the vehicle and whether to pull it from the battery or the generator.

Stop-Start System

Refer to “Auto Stop Start”

Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD)

Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel is a petroleum-based fuel just like regular diesel fuel, but significantly more refined to the point that the Sulphur content is reduced down to atleast 15 parts per million (ppm). Standard highway-use diesel fuel sold in the United States contains an average of 500 parts per million (ppm) of Sulphur.