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All about the EV batteries

23 MARCH 2023 • 8 MIN READ

Piotr Majcher

Piotr

Majcher

All about the EV batteries

Electric vehicle (EV) batteries are a major component of the transportation revolution, providing power to electric cars and other vehicles to run efficiently. Their development has evolved over time. They have quickly become an integral part of the automotive industry and their future looks brighter than ever. In this blog post we'll:

  • explore how EV batteries work,
  • discover different types of battery technology,
  • discuss the environmental benefits that electric vehicles offer,
  • examine ways manufacturers are recycled by manufacturers.

After reading this post you will be more informed about EV batteries so that you can make educated decisions when it comes to investing in an electric vehicle.

How do EV batteries work?

Powering an electric vehicle requires more than meets the eye. Underneath its hood lies a carefully designed battery pack that stores energy in the form of electrochemical cells, each composed of two half-cells known as electrodes. When these opposite ends connect and electrons move from negative to positive side, electricity flows through – effectively giving life to EV motors with clean energy for motion.

Recharging an EV battery is like restarting a race car that's stalled at the starting line. By plugging in your electric vehicle, you initiate engaging electron flow through its cells, as if turning on a switch „go”.

What are the types of batteries used in electric vehicles?

The different battery types vary by ion types, electrode materials and the associated electrolytes:

Lithium-ion batteries (since 1990)

They are ideal for powering electric cars since they have a very high energy density and maintain their charge for a longer period of time. The battery's weight to storage capacity ratio is referred to as its energy density. A lithium-ion battery provides 10 times the density of a lead-acid battery, in comparison. High voltage is produced by lithium-ion batteries, which are also simple to recharge and incredibly durable. Often lasting longer than the automobile itself.

Nickel metal hybride batteries (since 1980)

You can know nickel metal hybride batteries as those, which can get maximum performance out of minimal space. With the absence of any toxic metals, recyclability is made a breeze. The positive electrode in these batteries features nickel oxide-hydroxide as its active material and the negative side utilizes hydrogen-absorbing. High energy density and non-toxic metals allow those types of batteries to deliver an exceptionally long lifespan suitable for hybrid & plug-in vehicles.

Lead-acid batteries (since 1859)

The oldest type of batteries, also known as the cell batteries. Lead-acid batteries are the workhorse of gasoline and electric vehicles, helping to crank over engines while also providing power for modern EVs like infotainment systems or driver assist technology.

Why has the EV world switched into lithium-ion batteries?

Lithium-ion technology has become ubiquitous across a range of products due to its impressive storage capacity - from smartphones and laptops, through to emissions-free electric cars. This remarkable charging power is just one reason why lithium-ion batteries have experienced such widespread success. There's a reason lithium is the element of choice for batteries - it offers exceptional storage potential with its high voltage capabilities and efficient density, allowing us to pack even more energy into each battery. Lithium-ion batteries offer a density of around 300 to 500 Wh/kg, 10x more than a lead-acid battery.

As Olivier Le Moal said in the article for Renault Group „lithium-ion technology today represents the best compromise between capacity, volume and mass in the electric mobility sector”.

How are EV batteries recycled by manufacturers?

Recycling batteries is no simple task. The complexity of the process involved means that only a handful of companies worldwide are capable enough to do so. Companies like Redwood Materials, Li-Cycle, and Cirba Solutions have developed innovative methods to recapture 95% of the raw materials, such as cobalt, nickel and lithium after rendering them inert first in order to prevent any hazardous incidents or fires. These recovered elements are then refined before being sold back into the market for use again in new battery production cycles.

Ford has made a commitment to battery recycling with the Redwood Materials. Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz is taking sustainability efforts one step further by building its own dedicated plant in Germany. In keeping with this trend Tesla stands out at the forefront by claiming it can recover almost all materials used to make batteries for reuse and repurposing, an impressive 92%!

Rising prices of lithium and its impact to the production of lithium-ion batteries

Affordable electric vehicles depend on access to an essential resource: lithium. This material is produced from two main sources: extraction from brine and rock mining. Leader countries in lithium production are Chile, Argentina and Australia. By 2040, the demand for lithium is expected to have increased more than 40 times, mostly due to the transition to electric cars. The world is not short of lithium, data from 2018 from Mineral Commodity Summaries U.S. shows that reserves are equivalent to 370 years of current production.

The debate is around its cost. Lithium has been rightly referred to as white gold due to its increasing importance within these rapidly growing industries over recent years. Data from Benchmark Mineral Intelligence (BMI) shows that between January 2021 and January 2022, the cost of the lithium-rich raw material spodumene increased by 478.3%. But this year, due to business analyst, prices won’t be drastically rising. But Rystad Energy, meanwhile, told the Financial Times that „within the automotive industry, there is some consensus that the rapid growth observed in 2021 and 2022 may not be seen this year”.

Summary: the future of EV batteries

Electric vehicle batteries are a vital component of the transportation revolution, providing power for electric cars and other vehicles with much lower carbon emissions than gasoline or diesel-powered counterparts. As manufacturers continue to experiment with new technologies and ways to maximize battery performance, it's reasonable to assume that even more strides will be made in sustainability. All in all, with the current trends and advances in technology, EV batteries may prove to be just what we need to reduce our energy consumption and help steer us towards a greener future.

We hope this article helped point you in the right direction! If you'd like to further your knowledge on EVs, check the article about Battery Management System (BMS) and our other articles.