With the current focus on lithium-ion EV batteries, traditional lead acid car batteries may be neglected, but these tiny fellas are vital technical wonders that have powered automobiles for decades.
You couldn’t even start your automobile or lower your power windows without the intricate chemical processes within your vehicle’s 12V battery. Continue reading to learn about how your vehicle battery works and how it collaborates with the alternator to make your automobile a more enjoyable location to spend time.
How Does a 12V Car Battery Work?
The automobile battery operates by chemical processes. At its most basic, it transports electrons from the anode (negative terminal) to the cathode (positive terminal) (positive terminal).The lead acid battery, for example, takes its name from the fact that it is made up of lead dioxide (and pure lead) plates that are dipped in a solution of water and sulfuric acid.
These batteries include six cells that each provide roughly 2V, which is why automobile batteries are usually referred to as 12V batteries, despite the fact that they are not precisely 12V. These six cells are made up of lead dioxide plates (positive cathode) and lead plates (negative anode) that are dipped in a sulfuric acid/water solution to produce chemical reactions that assist the battery discharge power.
Keep in mind that the battery is made up of six cells, each with its own set of plates. However, the interaction between the positive and negative terminals lies at the heart of this process. When the cathode’s lead dioxide reacts with the sulfate in the acidic mixture, oxygen ions are released into the mixture and react with the hydrogen to form water. On the negative side, sulfate interacts with the lead in the anode, forming a lead sulfate layer and releasing electrons.
These electrons gather in the negative terminal and do not want to be there, but since they cannot move through the electrolyte solution, they are routed out via the negative terminal and through a circuit until they reach the positive terminal. This is the fundamental premise of automobile battery operation, since every other auxiliary equipment in your vehicle is connected to this circuit.
However, this only works while the automobile is turned off; otherwise, the alternator is what powers your vehicle’s electronics. When your automobile is turned off, the battery powers the starter, but after the starter fires up the engine, the alternator takes over. The alternator also charges the battery by reversing the processes that caused it to drain.
What Does an Alternator Do?
As previously explained, the alternator is essentially doing the function that people believe the battery is continually performing. Remember that if you had to power all of your windows, radio, and essentially any other electrical item in your car, the battery would soon deplete itself. As a result, the answer is rather inventive.
In your car, engineers built an alternating current generator that is powered by the engine rather than the batteries. It generates enough power to power all of your vehicle’s electric components. The alternator also recharges the battery while the vehicle’s engine is running, which is useful since the battery depletes quickly after accomplishing its task of turning the engine.
The alternator’s sole drawback is that it generates alternating current, which must be converted to direct current. To solve this issue, the alternating current is passed via a rectifier, allowing the alternator to produce the requisite direct current.
When an alternator fails, you’ll notice symptoms all over the place. For example, your vehicle’s electronics may not function properly, and your lights may abruptly fade. Under these circumstances, your car may begin to emit a slew of codes, and even if you connect it to an OBD2 app, it may fail to recognize that the issue is with the alternator or battery.
Worse, many cars utilize complex components that are tuned to function with very small tolerances. If your alternator or battery fails, the whole vehicle may begin functioning strangely and issuing errors that have nothing to do with the true problem: the failing battery or alternator.
Is a Car Battery the Same As an EV Battery?
No, they are not the same as the battery in your electric vehicle. Lead acid batteries are not the same as the lithium-ion batteries found in your EV. First and foremost, as you are well aware, lead acid batteries are primarily composed of lead and a water/sulfuric acid mixture. Lithium-ion batteries, on the other hand, are constructed of components such as lithium, cobalt, and graphite.
Not only that, but lithium-ion batteries offer a higher energy density than lead acid batteries, which is particularly useful in high-performance EVs and electronics where space and weight are critical.
Lead acid batteries also have shorter life cycles than lithium-ion batteries. This implies that a lithium-ion battery can be recharged and discharged several times more than a lead acid battery. This is clearly a big benefit for usage in electric vehicles, because the battery is the most crucial and costly component, and a poor life cycle would make it unusable. Lead acid batteries must also be serviced on a regular basis, but lithium-ion batteries need less maintenance during their lifetime.
It’s simple to understand why lithium-ion batteries are preferred over old lead acid batteries in electric vehicles. Lead acid batteries would make electric cars very heavy and powerless.
Lead Acid Batteries Still Have Their Place
Despite the disadvantages of lead acid batteries, they have a role in the automobile scene. Because they are less expensive than lithium-ion batteries, they will continue to be utilized in gasoline-powered automobiles and other applications where the initial cost is essential.
Lead acid batteries have been powering automobiles for many years, and although lithium-ion technology is the hot new thing, they will always have a place in automotive history.
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