TravelHow do electric car batteries work?

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How do electric car batteries work?

Electric car batteries are the most important component of these cars. Let’s see how they work, how they are disposed of, and how much they cost.

Batteries are at the heart of the development and diffusion of electric cars.

All car manufacturers are investing to increase their performance and reach a range of hundreds of kilometers before having to be recharged.

1. Electric car batteries: what are they, and how do they work?

Electric car batteries are the central component of the car as they can accumulate chemical energy and release it in the form of electricity.

The electricity produced by the batteries is transferred to the electric motor, which in turn transforms it into mechanical energy.

The operation of the batteries is quite complex but can be summarized as follows: a chemical process takes place inside the batteries, capable of generating a flow of electrons. The displacement of this flow from the negative pole (anode) to the positive pole (cathode) through a substance called an electrolyte generates the direct current users to move the car.

2. Types of electric car batteries

Over the years, different types of batteries have been produced, distinguished mainly according to the type of substance inside them.

Lead-acid car batteries

This substance has not always been liquid. Lead was present in the first batteries. However, it made them less efficient and took 10 hours to recharge.

NiMH electric car batteries

These were followed by the nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries installed in the first electric cars, such as the Toyota Prius. NiMH batteries have either a metal alloy anode or a nickel cathode, but, despite this, their performance is very low and is not very common today.

Lithium-ion electric car batteries

The batteries currently installed in electric cars is lithium RV battery.

These have a lithium and cobalt oxide cathode and a graphite anode and were born from the need to increase efficiency and performance. Despite the great strides forward, these batteries are imperfect, losing potential with each recharge.

Solid state batteries

To overcome the problems of lithium-ion batteries, research is moving towards solid-state ones. These are the most recent batteries and have non-liquid material inside them, such as ceramic or glass, which allows the ions to move between the anode and the cathode more efficiently, thus increasing the battery’s energy density.

3. Electric car battery life

A central issue when talking about electric car batteries is their duration, indicated in years or even thousands of kilometers by car manufacturers.

Currently, on the market, lithium-ion batteries have a range of up to 8 years, which translates into a different mileage depending on the electric car’s performance.

Car manufacturers guarantee a certain battery life for each model, for example:

Toyota Prius: 8 years and 300,000 km

Tesla Model S: 8 years and 250,000 Km

Nissan Leaf: 8 years and 160,000 km

BMW i3: 8 years and 100,000 km

4. Cost of electric car batteries

Another very hot topic concerning electric car batteries is their cost. The price for their purchase or rental must always be added to the car’s list price.

Most car manufacturers give consumers two choices:

Renting the battery: You will pay a monthly fee to use the battery (lithium battery 12v). If there are any problems, they can be replaced at no additional cost.

Buy the battery: for a cost ranging from 3000 to 10,000 euros, you can buy the battery without enjoying the free replacement if it is no longer under warranty.

Some manufacturers, such as Renault or BMW, offer a battery upgrade service: for a cost starting from € 3,500, the car battery can be replaced with a more technological and efficient one.

5. Disposal of electric car batteries: how it works and alternatives

Alongside durability, the disposal of electric car batteries is a much-discussed issue. Lithium-ion, the most common, has chemical materials inside them, such as nickel and cobalt, that can be reused as long as the right technologies are available.

Currently, the disposal of lithium batteries takes place in these 2 ways:

  • Recovery of the substances contained in the batteries: there are special disposal centers where nickel or cobalt present in the batteries are recovered;
  • Reuse of batteries: discharged batteries are reused to perform other tasks, such as powering street lamps and appliances or storing monocrystalline solar panels

6. Protect the battery in Winter

If you do not use your motorbike, vintage car, or camper in Winter, it is recommended to protect the battery in the best possible way to find it ready for use in the summer. How can we preserve our winter battery from being unused? Here are a few simple tips useful for our purpose.

The basic precautions

The basic precautions to protect our battery in winter weather are to store it in a dry place, at the right temperature, and away from sunlight.

So to store the battery properly, you will need the following:

  • Store it in a dry place where there is not much humidity. The less it is, the better the state of conservation.
  • Store the battery in a not-too-cold place, with a temperature of at least 10 ° C-15 ° C. A lower temperature, between 5 ° and 8 ° degrees, would cause you to lose at least 10% of charge in 6 months of inactivity. Beware that even high temperatures are even worse for battery discharge. For example, by storing it at 30 ° C, the battery can lose up to 40-50% of charge in 6 months. For this reason, ensure the battery is away from the sun. And from heat sources. Store the battery on a non-conductive heat surface such as plastic or wood to insulate it from heat sources. Self-discharge added to humidity could make the battery completely unusable.
  • Periodically check that the voltage is higher than 12.4V. If not, it better takes some time to recharge it. Remember to use the dedicated trickle charger for car.
  • Storing it in the right way will make us find it in good condition when we need it, but above all, it will prevent us from replacing it unnecessarily.

On the other hand, the battery is mounted on the car we usually use, here are the precautions to follow:

  • Try to start the car with all devices turned off during starting. Whether headlights, stereos, windshield wipers, air conditioners, navigators, or others, it is always better to start them after starting the car. Once the car is started, the charge will be provided by the alternator, so the battery will not be used directly.
  • Leave the car on for a while, with no devices on, before turning it off. In this way, we will ensure a slight extra charge to the battery, which will help it to carry out the next ignition more easily.

Protecting the Battery in Winter – Final Considerations

Usually, a starter battery for cars ranges from 2 to 5 years. It all depends on the type of battery and how we keep it.

If we use a battery making the most of it and do not preserve its integrity with the necessary precautions, its life will decrease more quickly and last less. On the contrary, if we follow the instructions above, the battery could remain stable for 4-5 years.

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