How does a lithium-ion battery for an electric vehicle work?
Now that electric vehicles are hitting our roads, more and more people are interested in the technology behind these vehicles. Electric vehicles feature tons of exciting technologies. In today’s electric vehicles, you can find everything from regenerative brakes to advanced fast charging.
But, aside from electric motors, the most important component of an electric vehicle is its battery. The lithium battery in most electric vehicles is also one of the most controversial parts of an electric vehicle. Read on to find out how lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles are helping propel these advanced machines forward.
Why are lithium-ion batteries important?
Lithium-ion batteries are at the heart of the electric vehicle revolution. These batteries offer a high energy density, especially compared to lead acid batteries, which are much heavier if you want to obtain a comparable capacity. Lithium-ion batteries are also ideal for use in electric vehicles as they can be recharged multiple times, which is essential for use in electric vehicles that require extended charge/recharge cycles throughout their lifespan. useful life. Another reason lithium-ion batteries are making headlines is the environmental impact of operating these batteries.
Over the lifetime of an electric vehicle, due to its zero tailpipe emissions, electric vehicles are very clean. But, the initial impact of mining the materials that go into an EV’s lithium-ion battery is costly to the environment. Not only that, but many people are concerned about the conditions many workers in these mines face on a daily basis. For this reason, recycling these materials is a top priority for many automakers actively involved in manufacturing electric vehicles.
What is a lithium-ion battery?
A lithium-ion battery contains cells that contain a positive cathode and a negative anode. There is also an electrolyte that separates these two layers, and through chemical reactions that release electrons, the battery can supply electrical energy to anything it is connected to. The number of cells determines the capacity of the battery, measured in kWh. In the case of lithium-ion battery, lithium is one of the most important components contained in the battery, and this is because lithium is very willing to give up an electron.
Thanks to the chemical reactions that take place in the anode and the cathode, the lithium-ion battery can be charged and discharged several times. This is because these chemical reactions can be reversed multiple times. Lithium-ion batteries come in many shapes and sizes and are used in applications as diverse as consumer electronics and electric vehicles. Obviously, lithium-ion batteries in an electric vehicle are much larger than those you might find in your smartphone, but they still work on the same principles.
One of the biggest advantages of lithium-ion batteries is their high energy density, which makes them relatively light compared to other battery technologies. Manufacturers must take care when designing and implementing lithium-ion batteries in their devices because if the anode and cathode were to be exposed to each other, these batteries can undergo chemical reactions likely to cause fires or even small explosions.
Even though lithium-ion batteries do an incredible job of powering electric vehicles, they face a challenge in the future solid-state battery. It remains to be seen whether solid-state batteries can be improved enough to see mainstream use in a major automaker’s electric vehicle lineup.
How does a lithium-ion battery work?
The basic lithium-ion battery takes advantage of the chemistry of its materials. These batteries contain lithium, a metal eager to lose an electron, forming lithium ions, from which the battery takes its name. These batteries are made up of a positive electrode called the cathode, which has a metal oxide in it (cobalt is a common choice). These batteries also have a negative electrode called the anode, which is usually made of graphite, and the graphite allows lithium to sandwich between them.
Between cathode and anode, a liquid electrolyte facilitates lithium-ion movement from anode to cathode. The battery also features a porous separator, which is essential for maintaining battery safety, as it prevents the anode and cathode from coming into direct contact with each other. If the two battery electrodes were to come into direct contact, the result would be catastrophic. When a lithium-ion battery powers a device, the lithium intercalated in the graphite-containing anode loses an electron.
This process creates lithium ions, as well as a free electron. Lithium ions pass from the anode to the cathode via the electrolyte and the porous separator. As the lithium ions move through the separator, the electrons take a different path that takes them through the electronic device that needs to be powered. Once they pass through the device, the electrons end up at the cathode. When the battery needs to be recharged, the process essentially starts again, but in reverse.
This is why lithium-ion batteries are so perfect for use in electric vehicles, as the process can be repeated multiple times. When you charge your lithium-ion battery, the charger forces electrons out of the cathode, providing a flow of electrons into the anode. This causes the entire chemical process that occurred while the battery was discharging to be reversed, with the lithium ions leaving the cathode and returning to the anode. After the charging process is complete, the battery is ready for use again.
EV battery technology will continue to improve
EV batteries already give electric vehicles amazing range and can be used multiple times. But, there’s still a lot to improve about this technology, especially how EV batteries are recycled once they reach the end of their useful life. It remains to be seen whether lithium-ion technology is kept around long enough to see monumental improvements or replaced completely with promising technology like solid-state batteries.