While combustion engines are powered by gasoline or diesel, an electric car derives its power from a big battery pack. These batteries are like a scaled-up version of the lithium ion batteries used in your mobile phones.
Curious to know how these battery cells power up an electric vehicle?
How about how far one charge can go?
We’ll answer that and more.
In this article, we’ll explain how an electric car battery works, the different types available in the market, and how much it costs to charge an EV battery. We’ll also cover how long electric car batteries last and answer 5 FAQs to give you an expanded view of this battery type.
This Article Contains:
- How Does An Electric Car Battery Work?
- 4 Types Of Electric Car Batteries
- How Much Does It Cost To Charge An Electric Car?
- How Long Does An Electric Car Battery Last?
- 5 Electric Car Battery FAQs
Let’s get started.
How Does An Electric Car Battery Work?
An electric vehicle battery (also known as EVB or EV battery) is a rechargeable battery installed in a vehicle to power its electric motor, which drives the car’s wheels. That said, an electric vehicle doesn’t use a single car battery but has a battery pack composed of thousands of individual battery cells working together.
When an electric car is charging, the electricity leads to chemical changes inside these battery cells. And once the vehicle is on the road, this chemical energy is reversed to produce electricity.
The entire process takes place using different electrical components that include:
- Electric motor: Propels the vehicle.
- EV battery: Electric car batteries power the electric motor and are available in different capacities, ranging from 0.65 kWh to 212.7 kWh.
- Onboard charger: Converts AC from the charging point to DC for charging the car battery.
- Charging port: Allows the electric car to be plugged into an external power source for charging the battery pack.
Electric car batteries differ from regular SLI (start, lighting, and ignition) batteries as they are deep-cycle batteries designed to supply power over sustained periods. An EV battery pack also has a high power-to-weight ratio, which means these are lighter batteries that help reduce the weight of your vehicle and improve its performance.
Electric motors in such vehicles also work as generators, allowing them to utilize regenerative braking.
When you release the throttle or hit the brakes, the car slows down by converting its forward motion back to electricity. This regenerative braking allows the otherwise lost energy to be stored back into the battery and improves the car’s range.
Currently, most electric car batteries are lithium ion batteries designed for high electric charge capacity. But there are other types as well.
Let’s look at the different electric car battery types.
4 Types Of Electric Car Batteries
Here are the different types of electric car batteries you’ll usually find:
A. Lithium Ion Batteries
A lithium ion battery (or simply lithium battery) is commonly used in electric vehicles and other portable electronics. However, lithium ion batteries don’t contain lithium metal but lithium ions.
A lithium ion battery cell has a higher energy density than a lead-acid or nickel-cadmium battery, which allows it to occupy less space and reduce the overall battery pack size.
Lithium batteries are also safer, offering better battery health, high-temperature performance, and low self-discharge. But, a lithium battery can be quite expensive due to the high cost of materials like cobalt.
B. Nickel Metal Hydride Batteries
Nickel metal hydride batteries have a longer life than lead-acid batteries and are safer. These batteries are commonly used in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs.)
However, these are expensive. They’re also characterized by high self-discharge and heat generation at high temperatures.
C. Lead Acid Batteries
The lead acid battery is designed to offer high power and is usually inexpensive, safe, and reliable.
However, a lead acid battery offers low specific energy, poor cold temperature performance, and shorter battery life.
D. Solid State Batteries
Solid state batteries replace a battery’s liquid electrolyte with solid battery materials like plastic polymer, compacted inorganic powders, or a mix of both.
These materials help increase the energy density and stability of the battery and offer better temperature control. However, solid state batteries are still in the prototype stage.
Now you know the different battery types available.
But how much does charging an electric vehicle battery cost?
How Much Does It Cost To Charge An Electric Car?
If you’re charging your electric car at a public charging point, the cost will depend on the charge point network and the location.
Several local authorities follow a pay-per-session approach for on-street charging points. You can also use some charging stations for free if you have a network subscription.
The charging cost will vary depending on the power rating and whether it’s a slow charging, fast charging, or rapid charging point.
Charging your EV at a commercial charging station can cost between $10 and $30 per charge when using a Level 3 supercharger. A Level 2 charging station can cost $1 to $5 an hour.
Tesla owners can also use charging points under the Tesla Supercharger Network spread across the world, which is often free for older vehicles (bought before 2017). Newer vehicles get a set number of free hours of charge.
Naturally, when you invest in an expensive electric vehicle, you’d want to know how long its battery will last.
How Long Does An Electric Car Battery Last?
As EV battery technology is improving, car manufacturers warrant that a lithium ion battery cell can last well for eight years or 160,000 km. Some estimates also suggest that the EV battery life is around 10-20 years.
And even though an electric battery module will eventually lose its ability to hold a full charge, it won’t fail altogether. Instead, it’ll lose its energy storage capacity gradually over time.
That said, any electric vehicle running in extremely hot climates will suffer battery degradation faster than in cooler areas. To counter this, today, cars with a lithium ion battery come with liquid-cooled battery module packs.
Electric car batteries are also buffered, meaning a driver can’t use the full amount of power stored in the electric battery cell. This helps reduce the number of charge cycles it goes through, safeguarding battery health and adding more years to the battery life.
Now let’s answer a few electric vehicle battery questions that you might have.
5 Electric Car Battery FAQS
Here are the answers to some common car battery related questions:
1. What Are The Different Types Of Electric Vehicles?
Electric vehicle options include:
- Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV): A BEV is powered solely by an electric battery, with no combustion engine parts.
- Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV): An HEV is a low-emission vehicle that uses an electric motor to assist a gasoline-powered engine.
- Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV): Similar to an HEV in concept, a PHEV comes with a larger EV battery and electric motor. It has a gas tank and a charging port.
2. How Far Can One Battery Charge Go?
Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer to this question. How far you can go on a single charge will depend on factors like:
- The electric vehicle battery size
- Driving speed
- AC or heater usage
- The weather outside
The battery capacity of an electric vehicle is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). Typically, a 40kWh battery pack can power a vehicle for 150 miles, while Tesla’s 100kWh battery is good for 375 miles.
3. How Much Does Electric Car Battery Replacement Cost?
If you’re worried about replacing your expensive electric car battery, you shouldn’t.
An electric car battery manufacturer usually provides a warranty of up to eight years or 160,000 km. Car manufacturers will also replace your car battery for free if it’s still under warranty.
But if it’s not and you still need to replace it for unforeseen reasons, the average battery replacement cost as of 2021 was around $132 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of battery capacity.
4. Which Popular Companies Produce Electric Car Batteries?
LG energy solution is a leading battery manufacturer of lithium batteries used in electric cars and power systems.
The company produces them in a joint venture with General Motors, Ford, and the Hyundai Motor Group of South Korea. Other battery production companies include Panasonic, Envision AESC, and BYD.
5. Are Electric Car Batteries Fit For Recycling?
Short answer — yes.
Once removed from the car, most electric car batteries can be repurposed for other jobs like energy storage in the electricity network, home, or workplace.
In fact, factories involved in battery production could help with battery recycling. These plants can be powered by repurposed batteries.
When batteries reach the end of their working life, they can also undergo recycling at a battery plant to extract and reintroduce valuable raw materials, such as cobalt, copper, aluminum, etc., back into the supply chain.
As per the International Energy Agency (IEA), the world can recycle 180,000 metric tons of used EV battery materials annually.