Now, when talking about electrified vehicles, there are three clear options: the self-recharging hybrid, which uses a battery that is recharged with the movement of the vehicle itself; the plug-in hybrid, which has an external charger to recharge the battery; and the full electric, which does not use fossil fuel like the previous ones and depends on its plug-in battery.
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In these three variants, the battery plays an important role, and even more so in the full electric version that constitutes 35% of the price of the vehicle, whose cost is usually around 100 thousand dollars, although vehicles of 30 thousand or 40 thousand can be found. dollars, as already mentioned in previous reports.
Despite that price difference, electrified cars are an environmentally friendly alternative. So much so that the European Union proposes 2035 as the deadline to market fuel cars. So how does this technology work and why are batteries so expensive?
The battery: yesterday and today
A battery is defined as a reservoir of energy. It works on cell phones, computers, watches or radios. That is, they are useful in everything, even for cars. “In the case of normal vehicles, for more than a century we have used a small 12 volt (V) battery, and in trucks it could be used at 24 volts, putting two batteries in series. Now, if you want to move a car obviously, you are going to need a higher capacity battery”indicated Carlos Munares, principal professor at the National University of Engineering (UNI).
These batteries in traditional cars are made up of sulfuric acid and lead, explained the professor to Tradeand the vehicle has an alternator, a system that keeps the battery permanently charged or that compensates for energy use.
And what is this energy used for? To start the vehicle, keep the lights, air conditioning, radio, etc. on.
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Today, with the development of electromobility, this battery has evolved and keeps bicycles, motorcycles, cars, trucks, and many more vehicles moving, until it replaces the use of fuel. In an electric car everything changes, and the battery becomes a key element as a propulsion system.
“This structure is a sandwich construction made up of an upper deck and a lower support. Between the two there is a multi-section tubular frame that houses the battery, while the cooling components are located outside, attached to the bottom by adhesive.explains Gonzalo Flechelle, manager of Porsche Peru.
It has a Case used to house electronics and refrigeration components. This arrangement offers a large amount of space for the cells, which are also important elements and are integrated by an anode, a cathode, a separator and an electrolyte. That is, they can be understood as cells that are contained in the battery.
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On the other hand, Professor Munares indicated to this newspaper that to move an electric or hybrid vehicle, a battery of about 200 volts is needed, and “To get to 200 volts, you have to have a lot of cells. Thats the secret”. This makes batteries bulky. What has become a struggle for manufacturers, since they seek to have less weight to gain other advantages, such as autonomy.
The importance of autonomy
From the ability to store electrical energy in the battery another important idea emerges: autonomy, which means how many kilometers can be traveled with a full battery charge.
“In an electric vehicle, let’s say normal, the cheapest that can be found on the market, it can give you 250 kilometers, at most. And that would be useful for use in the city, where you go to your office. But for a taxi driver it wouldn’t work”indicated the professor of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of the UNI.
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On the other hand, with high-end vehicles this changes and they can reach up to 600 kilometers of autonomy. For example, the Taycan Porsche Turbo S is a $210,000 electric vehicle and offers a range of 512 kilometers, according to the WLTP (a global standard for pollutants).
Thus, in electric vehicles, Fletchell told us that “The autonomy will depend on the capacity of the battery and the technology used to distribute the electrical energy of the battery”. Although there is also a weak point. In this race to expand electric cars, batteries play an important role, but their price is high and they take a long time to recharge.
Some keys in recharging
There are two types of electrical current source: Direct Current (DC) Y Alternating Current (AC). In the first case, hecurrent directly charges the battery without the need for conversion, and a booster in the car charger makes a voltage of 800V possible. In the second case, since the battery stores energy in the form of DC, the AC 240V/400V must be converted to DC 800V. This is done by the vehicle charger. On the other hand, the pulse inverter converts DC from the battery to AC when driving electric motors. That is, from the battery the electrical energy is stored, converted and distributed.
The future of batteries
Manufacturers are in a race to achieve lighter and more efficient batteries that offer greater autonomy and are faster to recharge. Otherwise, it will remain just an alternative to conventional vehicles. And in this way the material of the batteries is another vital.
As Professor Munares had already pointed out, the old batteries were made up of sulfuric acid and lead, but over time this changed. “It started with Nickel, as I told you, then Cadmium was also used. In addition, Iron, Cobalt, and some metals that are a little toxic are used”he explained. In addition, currently tests are also carried out with Sodium.
But, without a doubt, the element that has helped the most to move electric vehicles is Lithium, which works as a system for accumulating electrical energy and also for discharging to start an engine. And it is that if the vehicle has a lot of weight, it will spend a lot of energy and the autonomy will be less and less. That is why Lithium, which is a light metal, has made it possible to obtain batteries with little weight and high capacity. The downside is that it is an expensive item.
“The last thing I have heard is the Lithium Ion Polymer, that is, they are already introducing substances that are not metallic, polymers, how to say…, it is a plastic that will obviously improve the issue of weight. In other words, it will be a lighter battery and the interesting thing is that it has more capacity: instead of being able to travel 200 or 300 kilometers, you can travel 500 km”explains the university professor.
On his own, Fletchell told us that Lithium is indeed an important element, but the Porsche brand maintains that “The battery cell is the combustion chamber of the future”. And it is that the German brand is also working for the development and manufacture of high-performance battery cells.
“This composition is the next evolution, or perhaps a revolution, in lithium-ion batteries, since thanks to the greater energy density of silicon, it allows lighter batteries, cars with greater autonomy and faster recharges”detailed the manager of the automotive company.
It is thus that the future becomes promising. With the advancement of batteries, it could be ensured to have a less polluting transport. Vehicles would no longer emit greenhouse gases.