Introducing EV Batteries
Everything electrical has a battery and a circuit that provides it with plenty of power. Unlike using gas or diesel to make them ‘go’, an electric car just needs a well-juiced battery.
Electrical vehicles are becoming more and more popular as time goes on, and with them starting to become the more financially viable option, it is wise to keep yourself educated on them, and how they work.
They have a complex history and while they were extremely popular before, you want to be prepared for when they reach their pinnacle popularity and the only thing that makes sense is to get yourself an EV.
A fundamental piece of any EV is the battery, it is its heart. The battery first of all, but be designed to satisfy the requirements of the motor, or motors, and the charging system that the vehicle uses.
This can include physical constraints such as efficient packaging within the body of the vehicle to further maximize capacity.
The battery is also one of the primary contributing factors to the overall weight of the vehicle, so it is much to be considered where the battery is placed, this placement would affect power efficiency as well as vehicle handling. For this reason many batteries are replaced under the floor pan.
Ev’s have actually been around for a very long time, and this means their batteries have too. They have grown since the 1800s and are a testament to how efficient humanity can be if we just put our minds to it.
Today we will look at all the different facts about EV Battery Changing, including the history of these motors, the science behind how they work, what types of batteries are actually used, the costs and how they have changed over time, and more.
The History of Batteries for EVs
While we make think of the electric vehicle as a fairly modern invention, the first electric cars and therefore the first electric batteries, were introduced over 100 years ago.
They are also repeating themselves in their popularity in more recent years, similar to how they did when they were first introduced.
The electric car and electric car battery cannot really be pinpointed to one inventor or even one country, the road that led to the arrival of the electric car was more of a series of separate breakthroughs.
These all started off with the battery and the electric motor that ended up leading to the first vehicle to ever drive on the roads.
In the early 1800s, innovators across the world began toying with the idea of battery-powered vehicles, and slowly they started to create some of the first small-scale electric cars.
A British inventor at the same time developed the first crude electric carriage around this era as well.
In the mid 19th century came some of the more practical electric cars and by 1900, electric cars were at their peak and accounted for a third of all vehicles on the road.
They were vastly favored, around their era of invention, the gas-powered engine and the steam-powered engine were also in development.
When people started to choose vehicles over horses for transportation they had these choices.
Electric cars were most favored, they didn’t produce a smell as the others did, there was no long start-up period- as there was for steam engines- as they were significantly quieter running.
Women often favored the electrical car and their popularity increased, the steam engine had few practicalities, while the gas-engine had a hand-crank that was difficult, the engine was loud and its exhaust smelly.
In 1908, Henry Ford mass-produced the Model T gas-engine car, which made gasoline-run vehicles more available and more affordable, and so came the rise of gasoline.
The 1920’s discovery of Texas crude oil didn’t help either and so by 1935 electric vehicles had all but vanished.
In the ’70s, the electrical engine was making a comeback due to gas shortages. But, it was far from how it first was and was certainly not in comparison to as it is now.
However, this was a significant period because in 1976 Congress massed the ‘Electric and Hybrid Research, Development, and Demonstration Act, which authorized the Energy Department to support research and development in electric and hybrid vehicles.
So while the cars brought out in these times were sub-par, with rather sad battery capacity, only being able to top a 45 mph speed, and needing a recharge every 40 minutes, these times were a significant one that led to much research in the area that would later improve the batteries in electric cars to the standard we see today.
By the 1990s the driving range was improved to 60 miles.
Then in 2000, the Prius came about, with a nickel-metal hydride battery, and became one of the best-selling hybrids worldwide. Followed only 10 years later by the introduction of Tesla.
The Science behind the Batteries
A car that uses electricity stored in a battery pack to power the motor is known as a battery-electric vehicle.
When these get depleted, the batteries are then recharged using grid electricity, either from a wall socket or more often, a dedicated charging unit. Since these units don’t run on gasoline or diesel and are powered entirely by electricity these are considered “All-Electric” vehicles.
All-electric vehicles have an electric traction motor in place of the normal internal combustion engine that you would be used to in a gas-powered car.
All-Electric vehicles or AEV’s, use a traction battery pack, which is usually a lithium-ion battery, to store the electricity used by the motor to drive the wheels of the vehicle.
The traction battery pack is the part of the car that has to be plugged in and recharged its efficiency also helps to determine the overall range of the vehicle.
In plug-in hybrid types of electric vehicles, the electric traction is powered by a traction battery pack much like it is in all-electric vehicles.
The biggest difference is that the battery also has a combustion engine, and plug-in hybrids run on the battery power until the battery is depleted, and then they switch over to fuel, which powers an internal combustion engine.
The battery which is usually lithium-ion can be recharged by being plugged in, through regenerative braking, or even by using the internal combustion engine.
The combination of battery and fuel gives plug-in hybrids a longer range than their all-electric cousins.
When it comes to charging these vehicles, the methods available for All-electric vehicles are to use EV charging stations or regenerative braking.
However, for plug-in hybrids, you will find that they have both of those options as well as the internal combustion engine, so they have a bit more on offer.
You have similarities between the two as well, in both all-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, the battery is generally charged through a standard connector and a receptacle that works with any Level 1 (120V AC), or any Level 2 (240 V used in residential or 208 V used in commercial settings) plug
There is also the option of rapid charging stations, but these sometimes have different receptors, often known as SAW receptors, or CHAdeMO, which are not standardized.
It really depends on what vehicle you have, your particular vehicle will dictate how you charge it and what charging stations you can use. While some charging stations have been made to be somewhat of a one-fits-all.
These are not widespread and charging up an EV battery can often require some electrical knowledge that will inform you on how to charge the vehicle.
We say this because around 80% of charging is done at home, from home charging stations. If you are extra environmentally friendly and ecologically minded, then you may also turn to use solar panels.
If you live in a sunny state this can be a real game-changer, and there are plenty of charging stations that are compatible with solar energy. They can cut costs and reduce the use of nonrenewable fuels in the charging process.
Types of Batteries
Because there are two main types of cars that use electric battery charging as a power source, there are also two main types of electric car battery that are commonly used today.
- Lithium-Ion batteries
- Nickel-metal Hydride
Lithium-ion batteries are most commonly used in EV makers, such as Tesla or Jaguar. On the other hand, Nickel-metal hydride is most often used in hybrids such as Toyotas.
The chemistry of these batteries is not much different than the batteries you would find in your mobile phone, since the majority of batteries that are used in mobile smartphones are lithium-ion, for quick charge cycling.
This is basically the same sort of battery you would find in an iPhone, or a Samsung, just on a much bigger scale.
The requirements of these batteries are actually rather complex, they need to be able to store a lot of energy, while also recharging quickly, and being able to retain their energy density over many thousands of repeated charging cycles, at the same time as being pummelled by the roads, potholes, and all the possible weather that you can think of.
To be a little more technical about the way these batteries work. Inside a lithium-ion battery cell, the positively charged lithium ions are carried by a liquid electrolyte from the anode to the cathode through a separator.
This movement results in the discharge of an electrical current. The main variable for cost, life, and performance is the cathode. As there are varying chemistries, among which is the lithium-iron-phosphate, which is used in some e-buses in places such as China.
Then you also want to consider the specification differences in these battery types too, as it varies across the board when tackling different types of running.
An electric vehicle battery is composed of many hundreds of small, individual cells that are arranged in a parallel configuration to gain the desired voltage and capacity.
A common pack has blocks of 18-30 parallel cells in series to achieve said voltage. To give you an idea, a 400V pack will have around 96 series blocks, this could be seen in something like the Tesla Model 3.
Common pack voltages in vehicles tend to range from 100V- 200V for hybrid or plug-in hybrid vehicles, or 400V-800V or more, for all-electric vehicles.
This is because a higher voltage allows more power to be transferred with less loss over the same diameter of copper cable.
There are drawbacks of this, things such as a necessity for higher-voltage-rated components in the whole system. They also prevent the ability to use DC fast-charging stations of a lower voltage without using a boost converter on the on-board charger.
A good way to understand the voltage differences in these batteries for different types of electric vehicles is to visually see how they differ in battery capacity range.
- Hybrid Vehicles: (Usually NMH) 0.5- 2 kWh
- Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles: (Usually NMH) 4- 20 kWh.
- All-Electric Vehicles: (Usually Lithium-Ion) 3–100 kWh or higher.
Costs and drops in prices over time
One of the biggest questions being asked about EV batteries these days, is if the costs of their batteries start to decline, will this bring about an EV breakthrough?
The drop in costs of EV battery packs can be seen in models such as the Teslas Model 3 range with a power of 50-75 kWh.
You could see that in 2010 the cost was at around $1,160, over the years it continued to decline, a year later it had fallen to $899, then in another year, again to $707. By 2015 it was $373, and then by 2019, it was $156.
It is anticipated that by the year 2024 the cost will be below $100. These are the average prices weighted and based on volumes sold, and they show something rather interesting.
With any product, if the components are less expensive, the end product will be too, right?
If you were to look at a car like the Tesla Model 3, with a battery capacity between 50 and 75 kWh, and you choose the model with 75 kHw, then you can expect to pay at nearly 13% of the previous price from a decade ago.
Although the price is not the only thing that makes people cautious of the switch from gas to electricity. The biggest issue for many is the range. However, if the price continues to drop then this should not be so much of an issue anymore.
In 2020, EV enthusiasts went wild, exhilarated by the news of lithium-ion battery pack prices. In 2010 having been above $1,000 per kilowatt-hour, to have fallen to $137 per kilowatt-hour within a decade.
That is a drastic decrease of 89% in only 10 years, which beats the gasoline industry in their pricing drops.
What excites everyone so much about this, is that Battery electric vehicle pack prices being at an average of $126 kWh on a volume-weighted basis, means that at a cell level BEV prices were just $100 kWh.
This makes an average battery pack portion of the total price accounting for only 21%.
The head of energy storage research said that ‘It is a historic milestone to see pack prices of less than $100 kWh reported. Within a few years, we will see the average price in the industry pass this point.
What’s more, our analysis shows that even if prices of raw materials were to return to those seen in 2019, it would only delay average prices reaching 4100 kWh by two years.
This could mean great things for the industry, for buyers, and for the environmental impact of a more electric motor-based society.
With leading battery manufacturers now enjoying gross margins of up to 20%, and their plants operating at rates of 85%.
Maintaining a high utilization rate is key to reducing cell and pack prices. If these rates are low then equipment and building depreciation costs are spread over fewer kilowatt-hours of cells.
With packs being cheaper, we are also looking at cheaper overall costs and if the gasoline industry does not match these cost drops then EV’s will become the most affordable mode of transport in our future.
Key factors to improve battery life
If you have an EV, be it an all-electric or a hybrid, or plug-in hybrid, you will want to extend its battery life for as long as you can.
There are many ways that you can help your battery live longer. In fact, there are four main ways you can do this that are super easy, lets take a quick look at what these are before we go into more detail on them;
- Minimize any exposure to extremely high temperatures when parked.
- Minimize the batteries by 100% state of charge.
- Avoid using fast charging techniques.
- Control the optimal battery state of charge during long storage times.
These are all really easy things that you can do to help extend the life cycle of your EV car battery. Let’s take a deeper look at these.
- First of all, you want to minimize your car and car’s battery to exposure to high temperatures when the car is in park. If it gets exposed to extreme heat while it is parked and unplugged then this is when danger can occur. An automated control system for temperature that is installed in your electric car will needlessly drain your batteries to keep the temperature down for the best efficiency. This is a feature that should only be in action when your vehicle is on the road and using its battery. For this reason, when you park your car on a hot and sunny day, you should do so in the shade, undercover, or plug-in, so that its thermal management systems function using grid power and not battery power. Also, make sure that you have a stable range of temperature during operation also.
- Next, you should minimize having the batteries at 100% charge. While electric cars are already installed with a battery management system that avoids them being charged and discharged at an extreme state, you should never continually go from 0-100. Keeping it in between can improve the battery life of your vehicle, this is actually a similar feature in many mobile phones as well, continually going from 0-100 can damage the battery as you are continually going from one extreme to the other and it can damage the overall life span.
- Thirdly, you should avoid using fast charging units. If your battery is soon to die and you are in a hurry, a fast charge unit may seem like a godsend. However, it presses so much current into the battery at such speed that it can strain your battery and exhaust it, which can decrease your battery’s lifespan. While it is hard to notice this degradation, if you were to charge via a standard level 1 or level 2 charger only for eight years, you would gain 10% more battery life than if you did the same only using fast charging. It won’t do substantial damage if you use it once or twice, but it is best to avoid using it just because it’s there.
- Finally, control the optimal battery state of charge during long storage periods. If your EV is parked or stored with a full battery or an empty battery, this will also degrade the battery life. If you do not use your electric car often, or if you have a long trip ahead, you should consider a timed charger and plug it in. If you leave your car at 100% while parked for an extended period then the battery will struggle with understanding its level of charge with you are away. You should set the charger to keep the charge just above the low mark without filling it to the max. This is also very similar to other tech like phones or laptops.
Future of batteries- New inventions
The future is exciting, with many new opportunities ahead. Some of these amazing opportunities can be found in new innovative possibilities with EV batteries.
For decades, battery researchers have been working themselves solid to try and crack the code for a new battery that could beat lithium-ion batteries and the technology that brought the EV industry this far.
How do you make something already fantastic, even more fantastic?
Now after a decade, an old start-up backed up by a member of the tech investing elite and global auto giants says that it has finally created working batteries that could result in EV’s having even more extensive ranges, while being produced at a lower cost, being safer to operate, having longer lifespans and survive faster charging.
A company that has been in stealth mode for the last decade, has been developing something that they are calling ‘a solid-state, lithium-metal battery’.
This refers to the elimination of the liquid electrolyte, which is in all traditional batteries, filling the cell and is used for charging and discharging.
The way that this works, and why it is causing so much excitement is down to its makeup. A traditional battery has a positive electrode known as a cathode and a negative electrode known as an anode. In a lithium-ion battery, the cathode is usually a lithium-metal oxide, and the anode tends to be graphite.
A thin and porous separator will keep these two electrodes apart to prevent electrical shorting, the liquid electrode will then move the lithium ions, and that’s how it works.
In this new battery composition, however, it can use the industry-standard mixed-metal cathode, but with a unique solid ceramic separator.
This is then manufactured without the anode and without the electrolyte. This makes it more compact, energy-dense, and even safer.
When this battery is charged and discharged, the lithium metal will move through the separator and then creates a thin layer of the lithium-metal anode.
The magic that makes this work is the chemical composition and the manufacturing process of the separator.
Applied to an EV, the charge on a car using this battery would charge it up to 80% capacity in just 15 minutes compared to the current hour or more charging time for current EV’s.
They also claim that a car fitted with this new battery will have an 80% longer driving range than EV’s currently fitted with the standard lithium-ion batteries.
While we said earlier that pricing for batteries is falling, this is even better news.
Being able to extend the driving range on an EV would flatten the curve of competition and would make EVs more appealing to the public, especially for those who have ‘range’ as their main concern when it comes to gasoline vehicles vs electric vehicles.
Though it may seem a bit early to get excited over this news, the company has trailed and tested their battery in real-world conditions and found success.
Though this is fantastic news and this shines a new light on the possible future of EV’s and their batteries, you cannot expect it to alter the EV industry or technology overnight.
The product and finished end-goal is still crawling to the finish line. They still need a factory to manufacture the battery at a commercial level, and it is said that it will be 2024 before you see the cars fitted with these batteries.
Nonetheless, it is still looking good, and with the lithium-ion battery price drops, Ev’s are soon to be the ultimate competitor on a large scale against gas cars.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I charge my EV every day?
A vast majority of electric car owners will charge their cars at home overnight. Many people with regular driving habits need not even charge their batteries fully every night.
The average distance driven per day is 37 miles, or 59.5 kilometers, which falls well within the driving range on a charge of the latest EV models. You should only charge your EV when it needs it, if you do not expect to drive very far on a daily basis then you can assume you do not need to charge it each day.
How do I maximize my EV battery?
To maximize your battery you can do a few things;
- Limit ultra-fast charging, especially if the battery is cold, use Level 2 when you can.
- Only charge the battery to the needed level for your daily routine.
- Do not discharge the battery too low as it will increase the internal resistance and reduce capacity.
- Charge and use the battery at room temperature, avoid operating at cold temperatures if at all possible.
- Store the battery in a cool place at a partial charge, using and storing have different requirements.
- Moderate the battery to room temperature in winter before charging and driving.
- Charge the EV after a sabbatical, resting at low charge reverses capacity fades.
Should I keep my EV fully charged?
Do not overcharge your EV, if you keep your EV fully charged it can damage it.
Many EV’s will stop charging when they reach capacity, it is advisable to avoid immediately charging your electric car following a spirited drive, let the batteries rest, relax and cool down before your charge.
This will result in a longer-living, healthier battery.
Can I leave my EV plugged in overnight?
You can leave your EV plugged in overnight, however it is good practice to ensure that your whole setup has the protection of standard practice, built-in battery management systems.
Most will have this to ensure there is no risk of overcharging. These systems slow down the charging process when they detect that the battery is nearly full. This is doable with both Level 1 and Level 2 home chargers.
It is also good to have a smart charger that you can connect to your mobile so that you can monitor your car’s charge level when away from the vehicle.
Do electric cars lose charged when parked?
No, certainly nothing significant. If you are parking your car at work, you do not need to worry about it losing battery life while you work.
Electric cars are fantastic at handling extended periods of inactivity very well and in some cases, better than combustion-powered engines do.
Combustion engines have 12V batteries that can close charge and have a fluid and radiator that can be damaged in long periods of inactivity.
An electric car has much more life to it than this, you may lose a few percentages if you leave it unmanned for a while, but you don’t see anything of serious significance.
Do electric car batteries drain when not in use?
Yes, but not as you may think. If they are left unplugged, an electric car battery pack can drain by as little as a few percent of your total battery capacity per month, this does depend on other factors as well, including power-sapping features that do not turn off.
This should not be any concern to a regular driver, even if you do not use your car for a month, it should be of no concern unless you stored the car while it was already on a low battery percentage.
What is the lifespan of an EV battery?
A standard EV battery’s lifespan is around 200,000 miles. Customer reports average an EV battery packs having a lifespan of driving 200,000 miles, which is about 17 years of use if you were to drive 12,000 miles a year, which is actually quite a lot.
So, their lifespan is fairly sizeable and there is no need to worry about the longevity of your vehicle. You can make the most out of it for a long time.
What happens when EV runs out of charge?
To completely run out of power, is also called ‘deep discharging’. This can cause the battery cells to deteriorate and reduce their performance in the long run.
This can damage your battery, so you should avoid it at all costs. If you are low on power, you should try to find a charging point and top up when you have 10-20% battery life left.
What is EV range anxiety?
EV range anxiety is actually exactly what it sounds like. It is what an EV driver feels when the battery charge is getting low and the traditional sources of electricity are unavailable.
It then sparks fear of getting stranded somewhere, this can add time, inconvenience, and stress to a journey.
This is something that someone may also get if they are on a long journey on a combustion-engine-based vehicle with few gas stations along the way, though it is more common with EV’s as power sources are not yet as common.
How much does it cost to charge an EV at home?
If your electricity were to cost $0.13 per kWh and the vehicle consumes 33 kWh to travel 100 miles.
Then a cost per mile would be around $0.04. So if it were to cost this amount with a 200-mile range then your electric vehicle would cost around $9 to reach a full charge.
This is actually quite low considering the costs of other forms of transport power. And when considering how far 200 miles is, $9 is not a bad price.
“Are batteries for electric cars bad for the environment?”
Electric cars have fewer emissions so no, they are better, especially for the ozone layer. The positive effects that electric cars have on the environment are argued by researchers and advocates.
The pros of using these outweigh the negative impacts of sourcing lithium which is used in car batteries.
When we look at emission there are two types direct and life-cycle. Direct emissions are emitted through the tailpipe in gas-based cars, whereas the life cycle is related to the production of the vehicle.
While electric cars still produce some life cycle emissions they do produce less, and they also do not produce the harmful smog that you get from using petrol or diesel-based engine power.
Do electric cars need servicing?
An electric car will need servicing just like any other car, it will need servicing at the same intervals as other vehicles as well.
The type of energy used to power the car does not make a difference in how often a vehicle needs to be serviced, as it is more than just the power source that will need a regular check-up.
You should get an MOT on your vehicle regularly and as required whether it is powered by gas or electric.
Are EV cars worth it?
EV cars are certainly worth it, in the long run, you can save a lot of money.
While there is a large upfront cost at the immediate purchase and payment of the car, it will lose this high-cost factor over time.
They cost a lot less to run and you make huge savings on fuel, serving and even car parking in comparison to gasoline-driven vehicles.
For the lifetime use of an EV, the overall costs match and are sometimes even less than they are for gas-cars.
Does fast charging damage electric car batteries?
Fast charging, otherwise known as rapid charging, does have the capacity to damage your battery over time if used extensively.
Although this is not true for every single car, some cars, and a majority of the most recent makes, have preventative measures. However, a car that does not have this can be damaged.
The damage done is not drastic but it can damage the battery enough to reduce its lifespan by a few years. Check your battery’s capacity for rapid charging before you decide to use rapid charging extensively.
Moreover, rapid charging units are not home available, and so for the best charging, it is best to get a Level 2 charger for your home and only use rapid charging when necessary.
Should I charge my Tesla to 80 or 90?
For normal daily use, you should charge it to 80 or 90 percent. This is not a full-range charge, which you would want to use for long road trips.
Charging just below full charge will help to extend and maximize the battery life and will take less time as well.
A good way to ensure you only charge to this amount is to get a home charger where you can set the charge, or even monitor the charge from your mobile device.
Is charging an electric car cheaper than gas?
In short, yes. Electric cars will cost you less over the course of your ownership.
They are anticipated to live for around 15 years, and during this time the electricity required to run this battery-powered car will be as much as nearly $14,500 cheaper than fueling an internal combustion/ gas vehicle.
A fantastic way to understand the savings made is to look at the NYC fleet, which spent between $209 to $386 in 2019 maintaining each of its electric vehicles, compared to the $1,600 average cost of their gasoline vehicles.
How many batteries does an electric car have?
The subcompact EV will come with a battery that has 12-18 kWh, whereas a midsize family sedan will have 22-32 kWh.
Then you have the luxury models by companies such as Tesla that have an oversized battery with 60-100 kWh to provide that extended driving range and high performance.
There is no direct answer as all of these car batteries are different, it really depends on the car, the purpose and the size of the vehicle, or the manufacturer. #
Batteries of electric cars can be of all different sizes, it also depends on the battery type, many will now have lithium-ion batteries, like the Tesla.
Can you tow an electric car if it breaks down?
Although highly unlikely, if you were to run out of electricity in your EV, you should contact your breakdown provider, this is a good reason to ensure that you are insured for incidents like this.
You should ask for a flatbed truck to take you to a nearby charging station. You would need a flatbed truck as EV’s should not be towed with a rope or lift like gas-powered cars are.
This is because towing in this fashion can damage the traction motors in the EV that generate electricity through regenerative braking.
How do I get an electric car charging point at home?
You can buy EV home charging points online, these can be easy to install, some you can do yourself. Others may be complicated and you may need to get a contractor in to fit it, but they can be very easy.
These charging points are faster than going to a local charging station, and they also have built-in safety features that make charging your car not only safer while charging but also in the long run.
It is also beneficial as it means that you can get on with your day while your car charges and there is no time wasted waiting while you charge.
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