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Lithium Batteries For Electric Cars – Everything You Need To Know

Electric cars, which may be defined as the future of transportation, are on the increase and are predicted to soon take over the automobile industry. Already, a slew of major automakers have not only begun building their electric vehicles – alongside the industry’s pioneer, Tesla – but have also pledged to discontinue production of fossil fuel-powered vehicles after a specific year.

General Motors has revealed intentions to phase out petrol-powered automobiles by 2035. Audi has also committed to stopping selling petrol-powered vehicles by 2033.

Overwhelming data suggests electric vehicles are the more sustainable alternative when compared to petrol-powered vehicles, which emit tens of thousands of tonnes of carbon into the environment each year. Although this is true, electric cars do have their own set of issues, particularly with lithium batteries and how to dispose of them.

This article will discuss everything you need to know about lithium batteries for electric cars.

What exactly are lithium batteries?

Lithium-ion batteries are a type of modern battery technology that uses lithium ions as a significant component in the battery’s operation and electrochemistry.

Unlike other batteries, lithium-ion batteries are one of the most popular rechargeable batteries because they have a considerably greater energy density – meaning they can carry much more power than the usual battery – and a slow discharge rate, allowing them to maintain a charge for much longer.

Lithium-ion batteries, besides appearing in electric cars, may also be found in tiny portable electronics such as laptops and smartphones, and are often used in military and aerospace applications.

What Is the Importance of Lithium-Ion Batteries?

The lithium-ion battery is key to the electric car revolution. These batteries have a high energy density, especially when compared to lead-acid batteries, which are significantly heavier to achieve a comparable capacity. Lithium-ion batteries are also suited for EVs because they can be recharged several times, which is critical for electric cars that require many charge/recharge cycles during their useful life. Another reason lithium-ion batteries are making headlines is the environmental effect of mining these batteries.

EVs are highly clean during their lifetime due to zero exhaust emissions. However, the initial environmental cost of mining for the components that go into an EV’s lithium-ion battery is high. Not only that, but many people are concerned about the working conditions at these mines. As a result, recycling these materials is a top focus for many of the automakers actively taking part in the production of EVs.

What is the Function of an Electric Car Battery?

An electric automobile battery functions similarly to the batteries found in computers and cell phones. In reality, most portable electronic gadgets utilise lithium-ion batteries, so comparing your EV battery to your smartphone will give you a decent concept of how it operates.

The battery cycle is divided into two parts: charge and discharge. Charge happens when your battery gathers and stores electrical energy (often by being hooked into an electrical outlet), while discharge occurs when it turns that stored energy back into electricity.

An EV battery, like your smartphone, does not constantly charge and drain at the same pace. There are choices for “rapid charging” and “slow charging,” and utilising more power will drain your battery faster. The quantity of charge your battery can retain will steadily decrease throughout its life.

Braking using regenerative energy

Because the energy stored in your EV battery is utilised to power the electric motor while driving, it is normally discharged when you get behind the wheel. However, another important aspect of EV battery design is regenerative braking, which allows you to recharge the battery while driving.

Both BEVs and HEVs have regenerative braking or regen for short. It recharges the battery using the kinetic energy produced by your brakes, saving up to 70% of the energy that would otherwise be wasted.

The capacity of the battery

When purchasing an electric vehicle, one of the most crucial aspects to consider is battery capacity. The capacity of an EV battery is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh), and the larger the figure, the greater the driving range of your electric vehicle.

The Tesla Model S, for example, has a battery capacity of 100 kWh and a range of up to 402 miles. This implies it needs around 25 kWh of energy to travel 100 miles. In comparison, the 2021 Nissan Leaf has a 40 kWh battery and a range of 149 miles, which is closer to the industry norm.

Consider an electric car’s battery to be similar to a petrol tank: it has a maximum capacity, but the actual number of miles you can drive on a full charge varies depending on how quickly you’re driving, how much weight is in the car, and even how hot or cold it is outdoors.

What are the risks of lithium batteries?

One of the first environmental concerns that lithium batteries raise is how to properly dispose of them.

In a typical battery recycling operation, all pieces of the battery are shredded into a powder and then either melted (pyrometallurgy) or dissolved into acid (hydrometallurgy) – recycling lithium batteries is more complicated.

A metal cathode (the electrode that collects electrons), an anode (the electrode that releases electrons into the external circuit), a separator, and an electrolyte are the four basic components that make up the function of a lithium battery (the medium that transports the electrons between the cathode and the anode).

Lithium batteries are also composed of a variety of dangerous components such as cobalt, nickel, manganese, and iron-cobalt.

Due to the complexity of the components that comprise a lithium battery, they must be deconstructed by hand to avoid explosion – and even when done by hand, they have the potential to ignite.

Because they must be recycled so meticulously, only 5% of lithium batteries are recycled, with the remainder going to waste. Evidence also reveals that recycling a lithium battery costs more than producing one.

Tips for Extending the Life of an Electric Vehicle’s Battery

Because your electric car is powered by a battery, it’s natural to be concerned about the battery’s longevity. Fortunately, EV battery technology is always improving, and all new electric vehicles sold in the UK and US come with a battery pack guarantee.

There are various things you may do to increase the life of your EV battery:

• To begin, wherever feasible, avoid DC charging outlets. While this is the quickest way to charge an EV, if used repeatedly over time, these chargers can diminish battery life, much as too many rapid charging cycles can harm your phone’s battery.

• Avoid driving your vehicle in extremely hot weather. Cold weather is more likely to affect battery performance in the short term, but warmer weather can affect battery life.

• Keep your battery charged between 50% and 90%. Lithium-ion batteries are not designed to be discharged or to keep a full charge. In reality, if the charge management system approaches 100% capacity, it will slow down.

Final Words

EV batteries now provide an incredible range for electric vehicles and can be re-used several times. However, there are still many things to improve with this technology, particularly how EV batteries are recycled once they have reached the end of their useful life. It remains to be seen if lithium-ion technology will be around long enough to see significant advances or if it will be superseded entirely by promising technologies such as solid-state batteries.