Eight things you should know about your battery
It’s the heart of your electric car and powers everything, enabling you to cover kilometre after kilometre without polluting or using any fuel. But, do you really know your battery inside out? Here are 8 key points so you never have any doubts.
Electric cars are at the cutting edge of the transition to fossil fuel-free mobility. It’s not only the growth in sales of this type of vehicle year on year that demonstrates this, but also several studies confirming they’re the best solution to achieving cleaner cities and roads:
The main growth driver has been the progress made in battery technologies, which have increased in capacity while becoming smaller and lighter. From an economic and cost perspective, a recent study by the consultancy firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, clearly shows that the costs of and energy consumed in manufacturing a battery are far lower than for other sustainable mobility options such as fuel cells for hydrogen-powered vehicles or the production of synthetic fuels.
If you already have an electric vehicle, congratulations! You’ve chosen the best option to get around without emitting harmful gases into the atmosphere. Here are five key points so you can find out in detail everything there is to know about the heart of your vehicle.
1- What is a battery and what does it do?
It seems like an obvious question, but it’s worth clarifying a few things. One of the benefits of an electric motor is that it’s a far simpler system than a combustion engine, and therefore maintenance and running costs are much lower. It can be said that the battery is the most complex component of the whole vehicle. The most common batteries are lithium-ion, which generate and store electricity by mixing ions contained in their electrochemical cells. The battery drives the electric motor, which means your car cannot move without one and they determine its range.
2- How is it charged?
Just like batteries in mobiles or tablets, electric vehicle batteries are charged by plugging them into a domestic power socket (slow/conventional) or a charging point installed, for example, in your garage, such as Endesa’s Charging Points. A full charge takes between six and eight hours. Fast charging points do exist, which provide more power and can charge batteries to 80% capacity in little more than half an hour. Many electric cars are also fitted with systems to capture and use the energy generated during braking and deceleration, thereby boosting a battery’s range.
3- What is its useful life?
On average, manufacturers estimate that their batteries can last for 3,000 full charging cycles. To give you an idea, if you depleted and charged your battery once a day, it would last eight years. However, this isn’t normal and manufactures recommend that batteries should never be allowed to empty completely to ensure their reliability. Charging cycles are therefore more frequent. On the other hand, many electric cars can easily travel over 200 kilometres on a single charge: a lot further than the trips made on a normal day.
4- Does their capacity change?
Just like any other car part, batteries do wear out. However, studies carried out up to this point on experiences with different brands show that their performance remains extremely stable. Many agree that after completing 150,000 kilometres (over half the useful life of a car), batteries lose around 8% of their capacity. According to Tesla, the greatest reduction is in the first 50,000 kilometres, when capacity falls by approximately 5%.
5- How should I interpret a manufacturer’s range figures?
Manufacturers publish range figures in ideal conditions, generally smooth driving within the legal speed limits. However, anyone who tends to drive faster will see the average range of their vehicle fall below the official figure. Climate also affects battery performance: the optimal operating temperature range for energy accumulators is between 20 and 40 degrees centigrade. The gaps between charging in countries that are particularly cold or have long winters are therefore shorter. It should also be noted that more energy-consuming devices are turned on in a car when it is cold, for example the heater, windscreen wipers, heated windows, etc. Whatever the case, it’s always possible to achieve the range published by the manufacturer, which encourages safer and more sustainable driving.
6- How can I keep it in tip-top condition?
As a general rule, batteries don’t need any maintenance; however there are a few simple steps that can be taken to ensure they’re always in perfect shape. Bear in mind that a battery fault may cause other vehicle components connected to it to also fail. It’s important that the battery’s refrigerant is changed. Hopefully, you will only need to do this a couple of times at the most. First, depending on the manufacturer, at around 170,000 kilometres, and then every 120,000 kilometres. You should, of course, always check these figures with your manufacturer. You must also keep an eye out in case the range of your battery decreases considerably, as this could be a sign it is not working properly and may be faulty. Most electric vehicles have an on-board computer showing the kilometres left in the battery in real time.
7- What should I do if it does fail?
Batteries are very expensive, costing around 5,000 euros, depending on the brand. Having to replace a battery is therefore not ideal, as it defeats one of the arguments in favour of electric cars: their low maintenance costs. Fortunately, many manufacturers offer separate warranties for batteries, which are sometimes longer than the vehicle warranty. Others offer the option of leasing batteries on a monthly instalment basis. Similar to vehicle contract hire, during the lease period, users are covered against any problems with a battery and, in some cases, are even given breakdown cover.
8- What does the future hold for batteries?
As we have said, this is a sector that has now reached cruising speed. Batteries not only have greater capacities and weigh less, but charging technologies are also changing, for example: wireless and on-the-move charging. This system is still in development, although several pilots have been completed successfully using a bus lane fitted with an inductive charging system developed by Endesa in Malaga. New materials are also being tested, such as graphene: tests show that battery weight and size can be reduced by up to 75% and 30%, respectively, using this material, while ranges can be increased five-fold and charging times slashed to just 10 minutes. There is no doubt that the future of batteries is extremely bright.