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An Introduction to Electric Vehicle Batteries

Today’s hybrids, plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles owe their ability to get you to your destination to a single, critical component: the battery. Drawing on decades of innovative design and engineering advances, modern EV batteries can hold a charge for hundreds of miles of travel and last for decades, making them an essential element in a carbon-free lifestyle.

Whether you’re considering investing in an electric vehicle for the first time or you’re an experienced EV driver, you may be wondering just what it is that gives these cars the power they need. Take a look at everything you need to know about EV batteries right here.

How Do EV Batteries Work?

Conventional gas-powered cars derive energy trapped in fossil fuels from the combustion process. Electric vehicles, however, rely on batteries to release stored energy to one or more electric motors. Pressing the accelerator increases the amount of energy supplied to the engine and allows it to speed up.

The batteries in gas-powered cars mainly power the starter motor and secondary systems like the headlights and dashboard instruments. The batteries in an electric car power the entire vehicle. EV batteries also act as generators by absorbing the energy of a car’s forward motion to rebuild its charge levels.

EV Batteries Explained

The earliest hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) used nickel metal hydride (NiMH or Ni–MH) batteries, and these are still the most common type of battery in use for late-model HEVs. All-electric vehicles, however, typically use Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries.

These consist of an array of cells assembled into a traction battery pack, which can be recharged relatively quickly and can supply large amounts of power on demand. Lithium is lighter and has a greater energy density than both conventional lead-acid and nickel-cadmium batteries. In some cases, Li-ion batteries can have specific energy levels twice or even four times higher than those of NiMH batteries.

How Long Do EV Batteries Last?

EV battery power output is typically described in kilowatt-hours, or kWh. One kWh denotes the amount of energy you would need to power a 1,000-watt appliance or device for one hour.

The average battery has a capacity of 40 kWh, and some go as high as 100 kWh. This directly impacts a vehicle’s range or how far it can travel before the battery must be recharged.

For example, when fully charged, a car with a 60 kWh battery has a range of up to 212 miles. The latest 100 kWh batteries have ranges close to 400 miles.

After a battery has exhausted its charge, it’s necessary to connect it to an EV charging station. These come in level 1, 2 and 3 configurations. A Level 1 EV charger can take up to 50 hours to recharge an all-electric vehicle from empty. Level 2 EV chargers need between four and 10 hours, and level 3 EV chargers can fully recharge a battery in as little as 20 minutes.

In addition to range, another important factor to consider is overall battery life. Most auto manufacturers provide warranties for EV batteries lasting eight years or up to 100,000 miles, whichever comes first. However, experts estimate that a Li-ion automotive battery can last substantially longer, from 12 to 15 years, in moderate climates.

Certain environmental factors, in particular extreme heat or cold, can reduce battery lifespans. For example, the battery will have to work harder in cold weather to heat the cabin. Lower temperatures can negatively affect battery life, in some cases reducing charge by as much as 20%.

Battery Repairs and Replacement

The most common type of EV battery repair is cell replacement. Li-ion cells can become damaged due to extreme weather or adverse road conditions and may need to be replaced periodically. Other important repair services include periodic diagnostic checks and maintenance on the cooling system, which prevents overheating.

All car batteries will eventually break down and lose their ability to hold a charge. Normally, battery warranty periods are long enough to cover the cost. If a battery wears out after the warranty has expired, however, the cost of replacement will vary depending on the type and size of the battery and the make and model of the vehicle in question.

In 2019, for instance, replacement batteries cost $161 per kWh or about $6,400 for a 40 kWh battery. However, increasing availability and dropping production costs are contributing to a downward trend in replacement battery prices. Between 2010 and 2016 alone, the cost of a new EV battery declined by about 80%, a trend that analysts believe will continue in the coming years.

What to Look for When Buying an EV

In general, it’s wise to look elsewhere if you’re considering buying a used EV that needs a new battery and the replacement cost is higher than the purchase price. However, it’s possible to offset replacement and repair costs if a vehicle you’re thinking of buying qualifies for EV incentives, such as the new $4,000 EV rebate for used vehicles.

Two other important factors are charging and your driving habits. As a rule, if you don’t live near a public EV charging station, you’ll have to invest in installing a charging port at home to keep your vehicle charged enough for daily use. Avoiding frequent acceleration is also a good idea, as traveling at higher speeds forces the engine to consume more energy. Similarly, if you plan to carry passengers and cargo on a regular basis, look for a battery with a higher range in order to complete every journey without additional delays.

For more of the latest news and updates on EV living, green energy and sustainable products, visit eveelife.com. They work to keep drivers new to EV life up to date on everything they need to know about the changing face of EV technology and help drivers make informed decisions when buying an EV.

By evee Life Contributor

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