We know that electric cars are good for the environment. When you own a battery-powered electric vehicle, you also avoid trips to the gas pump. Being able to plug into a 240-volt outlet, charge the battery and go is one of the other great things we love about battery electric vehicles. And when you’re out and about, you’ll find a growing number of EV charging stations in Texas for charging on the go.
Electricity stored in the battery provides power to the motor to get the car moving. The downside for some electric vehicles is their inability to compete in long range trips compared to gasoline and diesel powered vehicles. For instance, the standard Nissan Leaf is equipped with a 40 kWh lithium-ion battery and has a range of up to 150 miles when fully charged, while the average range for a gas car is about 300 to 400 miles on a full tank. However, most Americans will drive a lot less than 150 miles in a given workday, so you can always recharge the battery once you’re home and have it ready for the next weekday work commute.
Electric Car Batteries Have Come a Long Way
Batteries for electric vehicles are much different from the ones we use in our radios, remotes and toys. Electric vehicle batteries are powerful enough to run an electric car. So what type of battery packs do electric vehicles use? Lithium-ion batteries are the most common. However, there are also nickel-metal hydride, lead-acid and ultra-capacitor battery alternatives. One of the significant concerns about electric car batteries is the cost. When battery packs first entered the masses, the average estimate ran to be about $1,000 per kWh. The cost seemed a little steep at the time, in 2010. The good news is that the price keeps falling every year, and it looks like that trend will be continuing for the foreseeable future1.
Electric Battery Materials
Lithium is one of the primary materials of an electric bar battery. However, other elements go into battery packs like cobalt, manganese, nickel and graphite. Positive and negative electrodes and an electrolyte are the three main components in a lithium-ion battery. Carbon or graphite goes into the negative electrode, and a metal oxide makes the positive. An electrolyte will use a lithium salt from an organic solvent. Unfortunately, many of these other components are close to being rare earth materials with questionable environmental hazards associated with producing the materials. So what do you do if you want to minimize your carbon footprint with an electric vehicle, but also know the harsh conditions and human suffering that go into making the batteries? There are viable alternatives in the pipeline, and companies like Tesla are making a reasonable effort by getting materials from North America, which enforces ethically-sourced policies.
The challenges facing many electric car makers is their ability to manufacture a sufficient amount of batteries for market demand. The demand for electric vehicles is growing all around the world. People want to start driving electric cars because these vehicles don’t emit harmful pollution from a tailpipe, and many people don’t want to rely on big oil. Tesla has built an enormous Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada, in hopes of keeping up with demand. However, China is still the market leader, and factories are opening up all around the world. This is all good news for electric cars.
How Long do Electric Car Batteries Last?
One of the big questions for consumers is how long do electric car batteries last? It all depends on the car and the type of battery pack it uses. Electric vehicles from Chevy and Tesla use liquid-conditioned batteries which tend to hold their capacity better than passive air cooling like the battery packs found in Nissan’s.
Purchasing a new electric car battery is more expensive than the rechargeable batteries used in gas-powered cars. After all, replacing an electric car battery pack can set you back several thousand dollars, while standard automotive batteries are typically less than 100 dollars. The good news is that electric car batteries tend to last much longer than gas-powered vehicles. Even better news is the warranty that most manufacturers offer. It’s not unusual to find electric-car makers offering 8 year/100K mile battery degradation warranties.
The Future is Looking up
There are over three million EVs and plug-hybrids on the road worldwide, with the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S being the two of the most popular electric cars. It’s interesting to note that the two most popular EVs use different types of electric batteries. A 2018 Tesla Model 3 Long Range uses an 88.5kWh battery, while the Nissan Leaf uses a 40 kWh battery. The hope is that the cost of purchasing and maintaining an electric vehicle will be much like its combustion-engine equivalent. And EV batteries are not just for the wheels on the ground. Smaller electric vehicle batteries are being manufactured for electric planes too.
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