When discussing electric vehicle (EV) batteries, it’s essential to recognize the intricate design beyond individual cells. The beauty of EV battery design extends to the entire battery pack, exploring how cells combine to power an entire EV. To comprehend EV battery design fully, one must delve into the manufacturing process behind assembling a battery pack.

What Constitutes EV Batteries?

EV batteries, often referred to as the “heart” of an EV, function as the power source. While one might visualize EV batteries as single cells, akin to those in everyday gadgets, an EV cannot operate on just one or two cells. The term “EV battery” encapsulates the entire battery pack, comprising numerous individual EV battery cells that collectively provide ample power for the EV’s operation.

The elegance of EV battery manufacturing lies in the combination of these cells into a cohesive pack, a process detailed in the following sections.

Components of EV Batteries

Understanding what constitutes EV batteries involves examining the components of a single cell. An EV battery cell comprises four primary elements: the negative electrode (anode), positive electrode (cathode), electrolyte, and separator.

EV batteries are primarily composed of base metals—aluminum, copper, and iron. The distinction between battery types lies in the anode and cathode materials. Here are existing EV battery types and their respective components:

  • Nickel-Cadmium Batteries:

    • Anode: Cadmium hydroxide
    • Cathode: Nickel hydroxide
  • Lead-Acid Batteries:

    • Anode: Lead
    • Cathode: Lead (electrolyte is mild sulfuring acid)
  • Nickel-Metal Hydride Batteries:

    • Anode: Hydrogen-absorbing alloy
    • Cathode: Nickel oxy-hydroxide
  • Lithium-ion Batteries:

    • Anode: Lithium and graphite
    • Cathode: Lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese
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EV Hierarchy: Cells, Modules, and Packs

The EV design hierarchy comprises three key elements:

  • EV Battery Cells: The smallest units, available in cylindrical, pouch, or prismatic formats, with a single lithium-ion battery producing 1–6V of power.
  • EV Battery Modules: Single cells connected in series or parallel, enclosed in a robust housing.
  • EV Battery Packs: The final form of an EV battery, where modules are connected to meet the power requirements of specific electric vehicle applications. EV battery packs are typically the heaviest component in an electric vehicle.

Lifespan of EV Batteries

On average, lithium-ion EV batteries, the most common type, have a lifespan of 10 to 20 years before replacement is necessary. Rather than abruptly failing, EV batteries gradually lose charging capacity over time. For instance, the Tesla Model S battery loses 5% of its original capacity after the first 50,000 miles.

Manufacturing Process of EV Batteries

The assembly process for EV batteries considers factors such as battery design, size, frame, and power requirements for the electric vehicle. The process begins with individual cells, where anode and cathode components are housed, separated by a separator, and filled with electrolyte. After rigorous testing, cells are combined into modules containing 12 cells each, utilizing specialized battery collector plates for robust connections.

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The final assembly involves combining modules into sturdy battery packs, manually connected to the electric vehicle’s systems. Robot arms assist in sealing the pack securely.

Promoting Sustainability in EV Battery Manufacturing

The sustainability of EV batteries is crucial for environmental consciousness. While EV batteries have a lifespan of 10 to 20 years, recycling centers handle old batteries, extracting metals like aluminum, copper, cobalt, and lithium. These recycled metals find reuse in new battery manufacturing.

Contrary to popular belief, “dead” EV batteries still possess usability. They can serve as secondary storage for solar and wind energy. Future EV battery technology focuses on reclaiming metals from old batteries to reduce reliance on new materials, promoting environmental sustainability in the EV industry.