Worried about the battery of your electric car? Do not be. Drive happy

If you drive an electric car, it’s normal to have questions about your battery. How long will it last? What’s the best way to charge it? What can you do to extend its lifespan? Frankly, few of us understand drums very well. All we know is that when they fail, everything stops.

Part of the reason people are concerned is that there have been many problems with cell phone and laptop batteries, causing people to go out and buy new ones after a few years of use. . Then there was the issue Nissan had with batteries failing in some of its first LEAF electric cars. And don’t forget the agitators and opponents who talk about nausea in the press and on social media about everything that is wrong with EVs.

So if you have questions and concerns about electric car batteries, you’re not alone. The people at Wired decided to chat with Qichao Hu, a Harvard and MIT graduate who is the CEO of SES, a battery research company focused on developing lithium metal batteries and artificial intelligence systems to better monitor the health of batteries.

Hu explained that there are two types of batteries commonly used in electric vehicles today: lithium iron phosphate (LFP) and nickel cobalt manganese (NMC). LFP batteries are cheaper – especially now that the price of nickel and manganese have skyrocketed – and tend to have longer lifespans. NMC batteries, however, have a higher energy density and are the preferred choice for cars with higher performance expectations.

Questions and answers about electric car batteries

We like to think that all batteries have roughly the same useful life, but Hu said Wired the same battery can have a completely different lifespan or level of performance depending on the vehicle in which it is used. “Different cars in different designs, different price ranges, different users and behaviors…it’s hard to say one car is better than the other car because of all of these factors. From a battery perspective, there are really only these two camps, nickel-free LFP or high-nickel NCM.

Wired asked Hu if it was possible to overcharge the battery of an electric car. “Yes, absolutely,” he said. “Certainly overall you don’t want to fully charge it or completely deplete it. You want to avoid less than 10% and more than 90%. You don’t want to go from fully charged to completely empty. That’s where AI plays a role Unlike cell phones, EVs constantly monitor their batteries to control battery charging and degradation.

Hu also said that charging an electric car in freezing weather not only shortens battery life, but can actually damage it. He suggests driving to warm up first instead of charging your vehicle from a completely cold state. Many manufacturers – primarily Tesla – use some of the energy stored in the battery to keep it warm, reducing the negative impact of charging in cold weather.

He added that the cold can also have a big impact on how far a car can travel before needing to be recharged. Hu said he could do 300 miles in his Tesla Model 3 at 70mph, but if it’s cold and he increases his speed to 80mph, the range drops to around 170 miles. “At high power and low temperature, the capacity of a (battery) is much lower.”

A common question electric car owners have is whether frequent charging is bad for their batteries. Hu said Wired that owners shouldn’t worry too much about the number of times a rechargeable battery can be charged and drained over its lifetime. He explained that manufacturers adapt the way the car uses its battery as the vehicle ages, “depending on the time of day, the temperature, your driving behavior; everything is done automatically by the software,” says Hu. His company is one of the leading providers of this battery monitoring software.

The process, he says, happens constantly on most electric vehicles, with battery health data being sent back anonymously to a central analysis system. The system determines if the battery is healthy or approaching a dangerous point and requires healing protocols. “These hazard modes can be detected weeks to months before a catastrophic failure occurs,” he said.

Does Tesla have a battery advantage?

Tesla uses both LFP and NMC batteries to power its cars. It also spends a lot of money researching batteries. Hu says Tesla’s advantage over other automakers is that it makes its own batteries, unlike most other automakers. This gives Tesla “the data and software advantage. You can collect data from battery manufacturing and after the battery is installed in cars. If you think of a battery as a person, you have data from before birth to after birth, how she ages and grows.

Hu said all of this data allows Tesla to build models that predict safety issues and track a car’s carbon footprint, which is necessary to meet regulations in some countries.

When will the next electric car battery breakthrough happen?

Hu said large-scale battery innovations only happen every 30 years or so. He expects the next major disruption in electric car battery technology to happen very soon. His company is heavily involved in lithium metal battery research. They are similar to today’s lithium-ion batteries, but will have “higher amperage, higher range and lower cost”. He believes AI and other technologies will also improve the batteries themselves, while increasing performance and safety. “I think it’s a combination of new hardware and software breakthroughs,” he said.

Finally, Hu said the cost of batteries is expected to come down with increased recycling of the raw materials used to make them, such as lithium, cobalt and copper. Ford and Volvo, for example, recently joined a program to launch electric vehicle battery recycling in partnership with Redwood Materials, a battery recycling company created by former Tesla chief technology officer JB Straubel.

“In the future, you can think of the car as the mine. We will be less dependent on what happens with the world price of raw materials. This is an important consideration, given that the price of nickel has more than doubled over the past month.

Takeaway meals

People are understandably nervous about battery electric cars. If there’s a problem with the battery, all you have is a nice industrial sculpture in your garage or driveway. But all manufacturers guarantee their batteries for at least 8 years and the results of now billions of miles of real-world experience are that the batteries last much longer than even the manufacturers ever imagined. .

Tesla talks about “million mile” batteries, and CATL says it plans to beat even that goal. Ultimately, electric cars prove to be more reliable with longer lifespans than conventional cars powered by gasoline and diesel engines. The takeaway, then, is this: drive an electric car. Be happy.

 

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