Your Guide to Electric Car Batteries | Dick Hannah Dealerships

Your Guide to Electric Car Batteries

Driving an Electric Vehicle (EV) is a distinctive experience that differs from a gas-powered vehicle. The smoothness and quiet of the acceleration are one of the first things folks will notice. The batteries used in electric cars are what create this effect. You have come to the right place if you are curious about how they work. This is your guide on all things related to electric vehicle batteries.

Electric Vehicle Battery Basics

An EV battery is a large rechargeable battery pack that powers the electric motor in an EV. It consists of numerous individual battery cells grouped into modules, all managed by a Battery Management System (BMS) that oversees their performance, safety, and lifespan. The battery, which also includes a cooling system to prevent overheating, is housed in a protective casing and connected to the rest of the vehicle through a series of connectors and wiring.

In contrast, a standard battery in a gasoline vehicle, also known as a starter battery, has a much simpler job. It’s primarily used to start the engine and power the electrical components of the car (like the lights and radio) when the engine isn’t running. Once the engine starts, the alternator takes over the job of powering the car’s electrical systems and also recharges the battery.

What are Electric Vehicle Batteries Made of? (Think like a Bee)

In the same way that a beehive thrives on intricate, interconnected systems and processes, so too does a battery. Each acts as a repository for precious resources: while a beehive safeguards honey, a battery preserves electricity.

An electric vehicle battery, or traction battery, works by converting stored energy into electricity to power the vehicle. It’s made up of some key parts: the cathode (positive side), the anode (negative side), and an electrolyte that helps lithium ions move between the two. When you drive, lithium ions move from the anode to the cathode, creating electricity. When you charge the car, these ions move back to the anode, storing energy for later use. Lastly, a Battery Management System (BMS) is there to keep the battery operating safely and efficiently.

Here are some other critical components of a battery that you should know:

It’s important to note that the exact composition and design of an electric vehicle battery can vary depending on the manufacturer and specific model of the vehicle.

What Kind of Batteries Do Electric Cars Use?

Batteries in electric cars will vary depending on the car model and brand that you are driving. The battery is also slightly different in hybrids versus all-electric vehicles, even though some of the features of the battery can be similar.

Nickel-metal Hydride (Seen in Hybrids)

A majority of hybrid cars on the road are using Nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries. NiMH batteries are used in hybrid vehicles to store energy that is generated during braking and coasting. This energy can then be used to power the vehicle’s electric motor, which helps to improve fuel efficiency. Hybrid cars with NiMH batteries typically have slightly better fuel economy than hybrid cars with lithium-ion batteries. However, hybrid cars with lithium-ion batteries typically have better performance and are lighter than hybrid cars with NiMH batteries. Here are some popular 2023 hybrid models and the types of batteries that they use:

2023 ModelsBattery TypeCity MPGHighway MPGCombined MPG
Toyota PriusNickel-metal hydride (NiMH)505150
Hyundai Sonata HybridNickel-metal hydride (NiMH)454042
Kia Niro HybridNickel-metal hydride (NiMH)494446
Toyota Camry HybridNickel-metal hydride (NiMH)514950
Honda Accord HybridLithium-ion474847
Chrysler Pacifica HybridLithium-ion363335
Toyota Highlander HybridLithium-ion333032

As you can see, most of the most popular hybrid models in 2023 have a fuel economy of around 45-50 mpg. This is significantly better than the fuel economy of most gasoline-powered cars, which typically get around 25-30 mpg in the city and 30-35 mpg on the highway.

The battery type used in a hybrid car can affect its fuel economy. Hybrid cars with NiMH batteries typically have slightly better fuel economy than hybrid cars with lithium-ion batteries. However, hybrid cars with lithium-ion batteries typically have better performance and are lighter than hybrid cars with NiMH batteries.

Ultimately, the best battery type for a hybrid car depends on the individual driver’s needs and preferences. Drivers who are looking for the best fuel economy may prefer a hybrid car with a NiMH battery. Drivers who are looking for a ride with better performance or a lighter weight may prefer a hybrid vehicle with a lithium-ion battery.

Lithium-ion Battery (Used by most EV makers)

A lithium-ion battery is a type of rechargeable battery that is widely used in various applications such as smartphones, laptops, electric vehicles (EVs), and many more. The name “lithium-ion” refers to how these batteries function at a high level: during discharge (i.e., when the battery is providing power), lithium ions move from the negative electrode (usually made of graphite) to the positive electrode (made of a lithium metal oxide); during charging, the lithium ions move back to the negative electrode.

Here are a few key points to understand about lithium-ion batteries:

  1. High energy density: Lithium-ion batteries have a high energy density, meaning they can store a lot of energy relative to their size and weight. This is one of the reasons they are so popular for electric vehicles and portable electronics.
  2. No memory effect: Some rechargeable batteries, like nickel-cadmium batteries, suffer from a “memory effect” where they lose their maximum energy capacity if they are repeatedly recharged before being fully discharged. Lithium-ion batteries do not suffer from this problem, which makes them more convenient to use.
  3. Slow loss of charge when not in use: Lithium-ion batteries lose their charge slowly when they’re not in use, which is another reason they’re popular for many applications.
  4. Safety considerations: Lithium-ion batteries are generally safe, but because they contain so much energy, they can pose a safety risk if they are punctured, charged improperly, or exposed to high temperatures. This can cause the battery to undergo a “thermal runaway” process leading to a fire or explosion. For this reason, many devices with lithium-ion batteries have built-in safety mechanisms to prevent these dangerous conditions.

Lithium-ion batteries are the current standard for electric vehicles due to their high energy density and lack of memory effect. As the electric vehicle market grows, the demand for these batteries is increasing, leading to innovations in battery technology and production. Here are some examples of popular 2023 EV models & the types of battery they use:

2023 ModelsBattery TypeEV Range
Ford Mustang Mach-ELithium-ion266 miles
Chevrolet BoltLithium-ion259 miles
Hyundai Kona ElectricLithium-ion258 miles
Nissan LeafLithium-ion226 miles
Volkswagen ID.4Lithium-ion250 miles
Kia Niro EVLithium-ion239 miles

As you can see, most of the most popular Electric Vehicles in 2023 use lithium-ion batteries. Lithium-ion batteries are a type of rechargeable battery that is known for its high energy density and lightweight. This makes them ideal for Electric Vehicles, which need to be able to store a lot of energy in a small space.

Electric Car Battery Capacity

Think of a battery as a container for energy – it has a certain capacity for storing energy before reaching its limit. This storage limit, known as battery capacity, is typically quantified in kilowatt-hours (kWh) which is the amount of energy that your car will consume in a given hour. Generally, the higher the battery capacity, the longer the range of the EV. This is because a larger battery can store more energy, which can be used to power the vehicle’s electric motor for a more extended period of time before needing to be recharged. However, other factors such as driving style, terrain, weather, and vehicle weight can also affect the range of an EV.

Depending on the model of EV you choose, the size of the battery onboard will vary. Since battery capacity has such a strong relationship with driving range, you should consider this as an important comparison factor when shopping for EVs. Depending on how far you drive regularly you may want to consider EV models with larger battery sizes and longer ranges.

Charging an EV Battery

When it comes to charging an EV battery, it requires more power than a standard gasoline starter battery. As electric vehicles continue to gain popularity for their eco-friendliness and efficiency, understanding the charging process becomes crucial. Unlike filling up a gas tank, which involves a quick stop at a fuel station, charging an EV battery is a different experience altogether. It involves plugging the vehicle into a power source, often for several hours, to replenish the energy stored in the battery. The process might seem daunting to the uninitiated but fear not, we’re here to demystify the process.

Public Charging vs Home Charging

When it comes to charging your electric vehicle, there are two main options: public charging and home charging. Public charging, as the name implies, refers to charging your vehicle at a public charging station. These stations can be found at various locations, such as parking garages, shopping centers, and rest areas. On the other hand, home charging involves installing a charging device at your residence, allowing you to charge your vehicle at your convenience.

Both public charging and home charging have their advantages and disadvantages. Public charging is ideal for those who are always on the go, as it allows you to quickly charge your vehicle while you’re out and about. However, public charging can be more expensive than home charging, and you may have to wait in line if the charging station is busy.

Home charging, on the other hand, is more convenient and cost-effective in the long run. You can charge your vehicle at any time, without having to worry about waiting in line or paying high fees. Additionally, home charging can be more reliable than public charging, as you don’t have to depend on the availability of public charging stations.

In summary, the decision between public charging and home charging comes down to your personal preferences and lifestyle. If you’re always on the go and need quick charging, public charging may be the better option for you. However, if you want convenience and cost-effectiveness, home charging is the way to go.

Charging Levels

The speed at which you charge your EV can be measured in distinct charging levels There are three common levels of EV charging:

  1. Level 1: This is the slowest level of charging and typically uses a 120-volt AC plug, the same type found in a standard home outlet. While Level 1 charging is slow (it can take 8-20 hours to fully charge an EV, depending on the battery capacity), it doesn’t require any special equipment, making it convenient for home use.
  2. Level 2: This level of charging uses a 240-volt AC plug and can charge an EV much faster than Level 1 charging, usually in 4-6 hours. Level 2 charging stations are often installed in homes, workplaces, and public charging stations.
  3. Level 3 (DC Fast Charging): This is the fastest level of charging currently available, and it can charge most EVs to 80% in less than an hour. DC Fast Charging stations are typically found along highways and in commercial areas.

The level of charging you choose will depend ultimately on availability in your area and the amount of charge you need. Please note that not all EVs are compatible with all charge levels. Consult your manual or manufacturer for more information on charging your EV.

Charging Factors

There are several factors can influence how quickly an EV’s battery can be charged:

  1. Battery Capacity: Larger batteries will take longer to charge than smaller ones. However, they also typically provide a longer driving range.
  2. State of Charge: If a battery is nearly depleted, it may charge more quickly initially. As the battery becomes more charged, the charging rate often slows to protect the battery’s health.
  3. Charging Equipment: As mentioned earlier, Level 1 charging equipment will charge an EV more slowly than Level 2 or DC Fast Charging equipment.
  4. Temperature: Extreme cold or heat can affect the charging speed and overall battery performance. Most EVs have thermal management systems to mitigate these effects, but in some cases, charging may be slower in very cold or hot weather.

Remember, understanding these factors can help EV owners make the most of their vehicles and manage charging in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible.

How Long Do Batteries in Electric Cars Last?

EV batteries are designed to last at least 8 years and most manufacturers have warranties that cover you for a period of 8 – 10 years. Warranties can also be measured in a certain amount of mileage, usually around 100,000 miles for most warranties. The true lifespan of an electric vehicle battery depends on various factors, including manufacturer design, how frequently it is charged and discharged, and the conditions under which it is driven and stored. EV batteries can last much longer than their warranty period, potentially up to 15-20 years with the proper care.

Measuring EV Battery Longevity

While some EV batteries may last beyond their warranty period, some drivers may experience degradation or failure earlier than expected. Therefore, it is important to note that the lifespan of an EV battery is not a fixed duration, but rather a range that can be influenced by a broad range of variables.

Environmental conditions can also impact the lifespan of an EV battery. Extreme temperatures, both hot and cold, can cause the battery to degrade more quickly. Exposure to high levels of humidity or moisture can also damage the battery. To protect the battery, it’s recommended to park the vehicle in a shaded area and avoid exposing it to extreme weather conditions.

The number of charge and discharge cycles that an EV battery undergoes can also impact its lifespan. Over time, the battery cells can degrade, reducing the battery’s capacity and range. To maximize the lifespan of an EV battery, it’s important to avoid frequent deep discharges and to avoid charging the battery to 100% or letting it fully discharge to 0%. Instead, it’s recommended to keep the battery’s state of charge between 20% and 80%.

If you follow the guidance of your manual and charge your vehicle correctly, your battery will last you a long time.

More about Battery Warranties

The federal government requires by law that manufacturers to offer an eight-year or 100,000-mile warranty on all EV batteries. While these warranties provide some peace of mind, it’s important to note that they don’t necessarily guarantee that the battery will last for the entire warranty period. It’s also worth noting that some EV manufacturers sometimes offer extended warranties on their batteries for an additional cost.

Most EV warranties will only cover you if the battery completely stops working, but other manufacturers like Nissan will replace the battery if it falls below the original capacity. Nissan will cover anything below 70% capacity which is standard for this type of coverage during warranty.

As stated before, EV battery warranties can provide some assurance that the battery will be covered in the event of a problem, but it’s important to understand the limitations of these warranties and to take steps to maintain the battery’s health to maximize its lifespan.

Why are Electric Car Batteries So Expensive?

Madonna said it best when she said โ€œYou know that we are living in a material worldโ€. This is also true when we talk about electric vehicle batteries. The materials used in electric car batteries, such as lithium, cobalt, and nickel, are more expensive than the materials used in traditional car batteries. These resources are highly susceptible to price fluctuations in the market. These materials rise and fall in price similar to how your groceries can cost more at differing times in a year.

Producing EV batteries is a complex process that requires significant resources, which adds to the cost. Another large cost of EV batteries comes from research and development time. This extensive amount of testing helps to create more efficient, longer-lasting, and safer battery technology.

As the EV market continues to grow and production scales up, the cost of batteries is expected to decrease over time.

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