Electric vehicle batteries are often referred to as the “heart” of EVs, akin to the critical organ in the human body. Functioning as the powerhouse of an electric car, these batteries distribute electrical power to various systems and store energy for subsequent use. Much like the intricacies of the human heart, EV batteries are complex structures, involving both physical components and chemical compositions that undergo reactions to generate electrical energy.

This article delves into a detailed exploration of the essential components that constitute an electric vehicle battery.
What materials are used in EV batteries?

When discussing the components of EV batteries, it encompasses both the chemical composition and physical elements constituting the battery cells. These cells, in turn, are assembled into modules, which are further integrated into EV battery packs. For a more focused examination, let’s center on the individual cells of lithium-ion EV batteries, the prevailing battery type.

An EV battery primarily comprises four components: the positive electrode (cathode), the negative electrode (anode), a micro-permeable separator maintaining separation between the electrodes, and an electrolyte (lithium hexafluorophosphate). The cathode consists of lithium, manganese, nickel, and cobalt, while the anode typically comprises graphite with an addition of lithium.

During the discharging phase while driving, the flow of lithium ions from cathode to anode generates electrical power. Conversely, during charging, lithium ions move from the anode to the cathode, facilitating energy storage.
What is the lifespan of an EV battery?

The lifespan of an EV battery averages between 10 and 20 years, subject to factors such as proper care, usage, exposure to extreme temperatures, and the frequency of using direct chargers. Although degradation is inherent over time, judicious handling and maintenance can enhance the longevity of both the electric vehicle and its battery.
How are EV batteries manufactured?

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The manufacturing process of EV batteries is intricate and meticulous, involving detailed assembly, rigorous testing, and stringent quality control measures. The initial phase involves crafting individual cells with the aforementioned layout, encasing these components within a metal housing. Rigorous tests are conducted on each cell to identify electrolyte leaks and internal moisture seepage.

Depending on the EV model, these individual cells are combined into modules, offering protection against external vibrations and shocks. Ultimately, these modules are integrated into battery packs, which are then installed into the electric vehicle.

Taking the Nissan Leaf as an example, the first model comprises four cells within a module, with 48 modules forming the EV’s battery pack. This results in a total of 192 individual battery cells, providing a capacity of 24 kWh.
What is the cost of an EV battery?

The cost of electric vehicle batteries has been a significant concern for owners, considering it is one of the most expensive components of an EV. In the past, the average price for an EV battery pack ranged from $5,000 to $15,000, with a notable decrease in cost observed over the past decade. Presently, the average price per kilowatt-hour (kWh), a standard measure of EV battery cost, has dropped from $1,160 per kWh in 2010 to $128 per kWh. Projections suggest a further reduction, stabilizing at $90 per kWh by 2031.
Are EV batteries environmentally sustainable?

The sustainability of EV batteries hinges on their chemical compositions, especially the valuable metals present in the cathode. While lithium reserves globally are estimated at 21 million tonnes, potential shortages are anticipated for nickel and cobalt, primarily sourced from mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Cobalt’s toxicity and its impact on miners’ health, including child labor concerns, add to these challenges.

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Future EV battery technology aims to eliminate nickel and cobalt from the cathode, exploring alternatives such as small amounts of other metals while retaining the lithium cobalt oxide crystal structure. Another approach involves disordered lithium-rich rock salts, requiring a more abundant metal (manganese) for stabilization instead of nickel or cadmium.
Are EV batteries safe?

EV battery design prioritizes safety, encompassing components from the individual cells to the battery packs. While electric vehicle batteries are generally safe, there have been isolated incidents of batteries catching fire. The volatility of electrolytes, which are flammable at high temperatures, poses a potential fire hazard.

Active cooling systems are incorporated into EV batteries to prevent overheating and fire. Damage to the separator in an accident can also lead to fire risk, emphasizing the importance of ongoing research. Solid-state batteries, devoid of flammable liquid electrolytes, and blade batteries containing lithium-iron phosphate blocks are emerging as alternatives, aiming for enhanced stability and reduced fire risks.

In conclusion, the components of EV batteries are not only crucial for optimal functioning and energy distribution in electric vehicles but also play a pivotal role in ensuring safety during operation. Ongoing research emphasizes environmentally friendly and health-conscious chemical and metal components, advocating for responsible disposal or recycling of EV batteries to mitigate adverse effects on the ecosystem and human health.