Electric vehicles (EV) receive their names from the electricity stored in their battery packs that power the vehicle’s motor and spins the wheels. Hybrid cars also feature an electric battery, but they have a combustion engine adding to motorized power too. Both these batteries are rechargeable. The vehicle plugs into wall sockets or specialized charging units and transports grid electricity to its internal battery. To know how EV batteries work, this article will take a look at what vehicle batteries are, the types of EV batteries, and how they charge to power electric vehicles.
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What Does a Battery Do?
Batteries store chemical energy and then turn it into electricity. A battery has a disproportionate number of negative to positive electrodes on either side of its construction. When connected or linked by a type of cable, electrons from the negative half will flow to the positive side. This flow, popularized as electricity, can be harnessed to power different devices, such as lights, telephones, and even vehicle motors. The force of electricity slows down over time as the electron numbers on each half balance out. At this stage, the battery is seen as dead because it can no longer generate electricity.
Various chemical reactions in batteries can produce electricity, but automobile manufacturers have kept an interest in the ones that can be recharged. Rechargeable batteries use electric energy to restart the flow of negative-to-positive electrons. Batteries with the right chemical properties to recharge are incredibly useful to vehicles because they don’t need constant change. For electric vehicles, three types of batteries work best in this situation.
3 Types of EV Batteries:
- Lead-Acid:Lead-acid batteries are the oldest type of rechargeable batteries — invented in 1859 — and have been used in both non-electric and electric vehicles. In these batteries, lead electrodes mix with acid to produce power. Since they’ve been around for so long, they are easy to work with, dependable, and inexpensive to make; however, they generate potentially explosive gases when overcharged. They are used in almost all conventional automobiles and as supplemental energy sources in some fully-electric and hybrid electric vehicles. Though some high-power ones are in development, lead-acid batteries function poorly in cold temperatures and do not last very long for EVs.
- The Nickel-Metal Hydride:Nickel-metal hydride batteries can pack a lot of energy into a relatively small package, allowing them a high energy density. They are most common in hybrid-electric cars and recharge from the vehicle’s fuel tank. They are extremely durable, safe, and produce little toxicity for optimal recycling. Unfortunately, they are expensive, have a low-energy density, and produce a lot of heat in high temperatures, making them poor choices for solely plug-in charging. Since hybrids feature both a combustion engine and the electric battery, they benefit the most from nickel-metal hydride batteries.
- The Lithium-Ion:Lightweight, low-maintenance, and a high energy and high-temperature performance, lithium-ion batteries are the battery of choice in most electric cars. Lithium-ion batteries convey less weight and still keep great quantities of energy. Vehicles with them can travel farther on one charge and the battery has a low “self-discharge” rate, which implies it can maintain a charge for an extended amount of time when not in use.
How does the EV Battery Charge?
In an EV, an electric traction motor replaces the traditional internal combustion engine in gasoline-powered vehicles. The EV uses a traction battery pack to store electricity later used by the motor to power the wheels. This battery pack needs recharging at plug-in stations, either at home or in public. Charging stations restart the chemical flow of negative-to-positive electrons. Overall car driving range depends on the efficiency of the battery at using and storing electric energy.
In hybrids, the battery pack and electric motor are followed by a combustion engine that takes over as a power source when electricity is depleted. Plug-in hybrid batteries can equally be recharged by plugging into charging ports or through regenerative braking. Both hybrids and fully-electric vehicles typically use an included plug-in cord to charge their similar batteries.
Charging an EV battery consumes different amounts of time depending on the charge level and vehicle compatibility. For example, not all EVs can refuel their electricity stores from fast charging stations. Additionally, the range an EV battery can go off a single charge differs between battery types. Lead-acid electric batteries only offers about 80 miles, nickel-metal hydride 120 miles, and lithium-ion over 220 miles. While coming close, lithium-ion battery-powered EVs still fall short of gas-fed vehicle in their overall range. In comparison to gas stations, the gaps in available charging stations across the country add to this detriment.
How Long Does EV Batteries Last?
Because of the components used to produce them, EV batteries can cost greatly more to change than those in traditional cars. Luckily, most EV manufacturers supply warranties on their batteries in case they expire before their time. Most last 5-8 years, or about 100,000 miles. Especially lithium-ion, nearly all of an electric battery is recyclable, and some of its remaining charge can be returned to the electric grid as renewable energy and its metal components repurposed.
Electric vehicles are becoming increasingly common as EV battery technology develops. More affordable and efficient all-electric cars are on the way. Just as lead-acid batteries became inexpensive and reliable after over a century of use and study, as will nickel-metal hydride and lithium-ion battery packs with more research, usage, and driving.