What Is An ICE Car?


In the automotive industry today there are a lot of acronyms used to describe the different types of powertrains used to power vehicles. There’s gas, diesel, hybrid, electric, natural gas, and hydrogen. You may or may not have heard the term ICE car while reading through news articles or forums online.

What is an ICE car? ICE stands for internal combustion engine. An internal combustion engine is any type of powertrain that obtains it’s rotating power through igniting a liquid fuel source inside the engine. Some examples would include engines that run on gasoline, diesel, natural gas, or hydrogen.

As electric cars grow more and more popular, the term ICE car is getting thrown around more and more often. For a long time, internal combustion engines were all that was really available. Even as hybrid technologies emerged, these were still internal combustion engine cars as they still relied on a standard gasoline engine. 

Now as more fully electric cars are becoming available and popularity is increasing, we are seeing a distinct line formed between internal combustion engines and electric cars. The differences between these two types of vehicles are pretty obvious and stem from the methods in which these two types of vehicles generate power which is then translated into motion.

In the automotive world, there are a whole mess of different acronyms and abbreviations to describe a whole variety of different things. ICE is a prime example of that. Let’s dive a little bit further into what ICE means and also some other common abbreviations you may have heard or likely will hear in the future.

What Does ICE Stand For

As previously mentioned, ICE stands for internal combustion engine. While you may be unfamiliar with these terms, this is simply referring to what is the traditional type of car. When you see a car filling up at the gas station, that is an internal combustion engine car, or ICE car.

So, what exactly does internal combustion mean? Internal combustion refers to the process that these types of cars generate power. First off, an ICE car needs a power source. It needs some sort of fuel that can be exploded in order to create energy.

This can be a wide variety of different fluids (gasoline, diesel, natural gas, race fuel, E85, etc.). This fuel is sprayed into a cylinder, compressed, and then ignited with a spark. That causes the explosion which is used to create movement. This movement is then transferred from the explosion through a whole array of components before it finally reaches your wheels.

How To Tell If A Car Is An ICE Car Or An EV

So, how exactly can you tell if a car is an internal combustion engine car or an electric car? There are a lot of different ways that you can tell. Some of them are more obvious than others. Let’s look at some of the most common ways that you can tell.

First off is badging. Most cars have badges or emblems around the car that will indicate information about the vehicle. This includes information such as the make, model, and trim level of the car but can often include a lot of other important information. Some internal combustion vehicles will have an emblem for the specific engine that is in their vehicle.

Most hybrid cars will have a badge illustrating that they are a hybrid. In addition, most electric cars will have a badge to indicate that they are electric. While this is not true for all cars (Tesla is a prime example. They only make electric cars, so they don’t put any sort of badge to tell you that it’s electric) this is fairly common.

Secondly, you can look for either a place to add gas or a place to charge your car. Most internal combustion engine cars have a place to fill up with gas near the backside of the car on either side. There are some rare exceptions to this. While an electric car could have a charging port in the same general location, you can tell very easily what it is if you open the fill door. If there is a long tube heading down to a gas tank, then it’s an ICE engine. If there is a place to plug in a charger, then it’s an electric car.

If you want to be sure of what type of car it is, you can take a look under the hood. An internal combustion vehicle will have an engine. While these vary in size and could be in the front, middle, or back of the vehicle, if you can find the engine, it’s pretty obvious what it is. Electric cars usually have the battery back underneath the vehicle running the length of the car. If you pop the hood of an electric car, you will usually just find an extra trunk. This is an easy way to know whether you are looking at an internal combustion engine or an electric car.

The last way that we want to talk about is by listening to it. Electric cars and internal combustion engine cars obviously make very different sounds. An internal combustion engine has actual explosions occurring which are being used to create motion. While modern sound dampening technologies have come a long way, even on the quietest of cars, the engine will still be making a constant noise. In an electric car, they make almost no sound at all. You can often hear a light metallic whirring as they drive by but that is about it. That is one way that you can determine whether a car is an internal combustion engine car or an electric car.

What Types Of ICE Cars Are There?

So, what are all of the different types of internal combustion engine cars? As we’ve talked about the most, any car that you fill up with gasoline is an internal combustion engine car. It doesn’t matter whether you are filling up with regular unleaded, premium, or race gas, they all operate in virtually the same way.

The second type of internal combustion engine and second most popular is a diesel engine. While these engines rely on internal combustion like a gas engine, they get to that explosion in a very different type of way. In fact, there is no spark in a diesel engine. It utilizes a different type of fuel and much higher-pressure levels in order to create the explosion very compression.

There are also natural gas engines. These engines operate, in principle, very similarly to a gasoline engine. High pressure natural gas is stored in tanks. It flows into a combustion chamber where it is compressed and ignited just the same as a gasoline engine. These types of cars are far less common due to the lowered amount of availability of natural gas.

What Some Other Powertrain Abbreviations Stand For

BEV- This stands for battery electric vehicle. These are what we refer to as purely electric cars that come with rechargeable battery packs. They don’t rely on any other source for power apart from their battery packs.

HEV- This stands for hybrid electric vehicle. These are cars that utilize both an internal combustion engine and also an electric car powertrain. These can often operate as just an internal combustion engine, just an electric car, or a combination of both as needed.

PHEV- This stands for Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicle. These are similar to HEV’s with some small differences. In these vehicles, the electric battery can be charged when plugged in. Doing so, allows you to drive the car as full electric for small distances. Once the battery level gets low enough, the internal combustion engine will start up.

More Important Automotive Acronyms

ZEV- This stands for zero emission vehicle. These are cars that use green technologies to provide power without producing harmful emissions. These are mostly electric cars and hydrogen fuel cell cars.

FCV- This stands for Fuel Cell Vehicle. These are cars that utilize electric motors in order to drive the vehicle. The difference is that instead of getting the power to turn the motors from a battery, it is provided by a fuel cell.

HFCV- This stands for Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle. This is a fuel cell vehicle that uses hydrogen as it’s power source.

AFC- This stands for Alternative Fuel Car. This is any car that utilizes an alternative fuel as a power source in an internal combustion engine.

LCV- This stands for Light Commercial Vehicle. This is a commercial vehicle that weighs less than 3.5 tons. 

NEV- This stands for Neighborhood Electric Vehicle. These are electric cars that can only travel at relatively low speeds. In addition, they cannot transport very much weight. As the name suggests, they are intended for traveling neighborhoods and small distances.MHEV- This stands for mild hybrid electric vehicle. These are similar to hybrid cars. The electric side of the hybrid vehicle is much less powerful on these and is really only intended as a way to shut the internal combustion engine off while you’re parked, braking, or just coasting down the road.

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