Be sure to check out our other Electric Vehicle posts below:
How Electric Vehicle Battery Packs are Manufactured
Unpacked: Electric Vehicle Batteries
Electric Vehicle (EV) Battery packs are sometimes mistakenly considered to be a “black box” that mysteriously provides power to the vehicle and requires periodic recharging to make sure the driver can get to where he wants to go. However, the mechanics of EV battery pack functionality is fundamentally the same as those of a regular battery. At the most basic level, the anode and cathode within each individual battery cell within the EV battery pack function together to generate electricity.
A battery, at the most basic definition, is a device that stores electric charge. Batteries are comprised of two distinct sections: the negatively charged anode and the positively charged cathode. The anode is negatively charged as a result of an excessive buildup of electrons which inherently possess a negative charge. Conversely, the cathode is positively charged as a result of a deficit of electrons. The electric potential energy defined by the magnitude of this charge difference is commonly referred to as Voltage, and electricity is what happens when electrons move to balance out the charge imbalance. In simple terms, the movement of electrical charge creates energy that can perform electrical work such as running a motor powering a lightbulb. When the charge gradient in the battery element has been fully depleted, both the anode and cathode sides of the battery are essentially at uniform charge. It is at this point that the battery must be recharged to regain the negative charge buildup of electrons on the anode side and the overall charge imbalance of the anode/cathode pair.
Admittedly, this is a simple explanation of electricity, but it is sufficient to capture the basics of how an EV battery pack functions. In simple terms, an EV battery pack is simply a larger number of small anode/cathode battery pairs, called battery cells, that work together to produce enough electricity to power the vehicle. In short, the electrical energy in each battery cell within the EV battery pack powers the electric motor of the EV. This function is the most important part of the EV drivetrain, and it is typically accomplished via a dual electrical controller and converter mechanism. This device converts the Direct Current (DC) electricity from the battery pack to an alternating current (AC) that can be used to power the EV motor(s). The device also carefully controls the power conversion via a complex electrical process to carefully regulate the voltage phase, frequency, and magnitude to the electrical motor(s) in the EV. This step is critical in order to translate the driver’s acceleration and/or braking inputs into electrical energy to power the EV motor(s) that propel the automobile.
With this basic overview, the fundamentals of battery pack operation should no longer be a black box to the driver or passenger; to the contrary, it is actually relatively easy to understand what happens when the driver pushes the “gas” pedal on an EV. The amazing truth is that the same basic battery technology that powers a smartphone is now being used to power more a rapidly increasing number of vehicles on the roadway today.
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