Battery power is something many people take for granted, but stored power has only been viable for just about 100 years. The physics principles behind battery power were discovered around 2,000 years ago using clay pots, but battery power did not become practically accessible until around 1800 when Alessandro Volta created a battery using copper and zinc.
Today, batteries are used in many household items, and most are small enough to fit into consumer electronics. As the need for portable power has escalated due to the widespread use of Internet-connected devices, lithium-ion batteries have become common. These types of batteries are rechargeable and have generated interest in the future of electric technology and the automobile.
What Are Electric Car Batteries Made Of?
There are two common rechargeable car battery types: lithium-ion (Li-On or Li-Ion) and nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH). Of these two solutions, Li-Ion tends to be the more popular due to the ability to rapidly charge battery cells, but NiMH batteries provide a “memory effect” that does not disrupt storage capacity based on how often the battery receives a full charge. This tends to see NiMH batteries last longer than Li-Ion counterparts in automobiles.
Toyota has been a proponent of NiMH technology, but other electric vehicle manufacturers have taken to different types of batteries. Tesla, for example, has recently decided to switch from nickel-cobalt-aluminum technology to lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP).
How Long Do Batteries Last In Electric Cars?
How long do electric car batteries last? The answer is – it depends. In a perfect world where electric battery technology performs as intended, the potential for an electric vehicle battery to last 20 years is not out of the realm of possibility.
Unfortunately, there are a number of things that can go wrong with electric batteries that can lead to diminished service life. The aforementioned Li-Ion charging issue affects batteries as they accept a charge over time. Each full charge depletes a bit of the battery’s lifespan, eventually limiting the amount of power it can hold. Currently, many electric vehicle batteries only carry a five-year warranty. This is telling of how long manufacturers expect a battery to actually hold up under normal operating conditions.
Can Electric Car Battery Life Be Improved?
Improving the battery life of electric vehicle batteries is possible, and accomplishing this feat requires effort on the part of manufacturers as well as vehicle owners. On the owner’s side, it is imperative to read and understand all of the literature that comes with your electric vehicle. The manufacturer should include specific information about how to charge a lithium-ion battery pack that comes with your vehicle or how to utilize and care for any other fuel source used to power your vehicle.
Additionally, drivers are encouraged to be mindful of fully charging electric batteries on a regular basis. While a full charge will result in being able to take longer trips, fully charging the battery to capacity can diminish the battery’s service life. Instead, it may be a better idea to only charge a battery to about half or three-quarters full. Once again, you will want to consult with your vehicle’s battery manufacturer for specific information about your vehicle and battery charging guidelines.
For manufacturers, educating consumers about the realistic limits of electric power is important. Additionally, providing best practices for charging, storing and maintaining batteries is key.
Manufacturers are also encouraged to get behind efforts to install charging stations around the country. As drivers have more access to charging stations, they will be less inclined to charge batteries fully at home since they will know that a charge is available while on the road. This can improve battery life since a full charge will not be accepted by the battery as often.
Exploring new technologies in electric battery composition and manufacturing is also encouraged among electric vehicle manufacturers. As stated, Tesla is looking to lithium-cobalt-aluminum batteries as a solution, and other manufacturers are also eyeing new storage and power options as well. Additionally, mining and refining of raw materials used in electric vehicle batteries are processes that are also undergoing changes to improve quality and efficiency.