Electric vehicles are gaining momentum in South Africa, even more so now with the spike in fuel prices. Searches on AutoTrader more than doubled annually for the last 2 years – a clear indication that demand is growing. Whilst interest in EVs grows, so does the need to educate electric car drivers or would-be electric car drivers on how to take care of their EV batteries.

One of the things I realised after chatting with one of AutoTrader’s journalists is that many consumers are unaware of what an electric car battery is made of. EV batteries is arguably the most important component in an electric car.

These are 4 main types of electric car batteries:

  • Lithium-ion
  • Nickel-metal hydride
  • Solid-state batteries
  • Supercapacitors

For the purposes of this article, we will only talk about lithium-ion batteries as these are the most dominant of electric car batteries in the world today.

Lithium-ion EV batteries are made of:

According to the CEO of Energy X, Teague Egan,  a typical lithium-ion EV battery contains the following chemicals:

  • 8 kilograms of lithium carbonate,
  • 35 kilograms of nickel,
  • 20 kilograms of manganese and,
  • 14 kilograms of cobalt.

These chemicals create a reaction that results in either energy storage or energy release within the battery.

The by-product of any chemical reaction is the release of heat, lithium-ion electric car batteries are no different. Heat is the enemy of EV batteries. 

Electric vehicle (EV) batteries are much like the fuel in an ICE vehicle and are the source of energy storage. (It’s the “quantity” of energy stored in the EV batteries that is the main factor in the electric car’s range). I.e. The bigger the battery the further the range. This comes with a whole host of consequential challenges. In order to increase the storage capacity of EV batteries, one has to increase the number of cells which increases size and hence increase the overall electric cars weight. This is a challenge every OEM is grappling with. Electric car batteries are heavy.

How heavy is the Jaguar I-Pace?

As an example – my Jaguar I-Pace’s 90kWh battery pack weight is 610kg. With the car weighing 2208kg. This is almost 1/3 of the unladen weight of the Jaguar I-Pace electric car.

Typically, EV batteries is embedded in the floor of most electric cars.

What’s the “natural” operating temperature of EV batteries?

Lithium-ion batteries operate typically at room temperature – which is roughly 20°C

When the battery temperatures increase to 30 – 40 degrees the battery becomes unstable. Lithium-ion batteries are not designed to operate at both high and extremely low temperatures. But high is worse than low.

And in the South African climate, high is more likely than low.

In the next couple of weeks, I will be speaking about the tips to prevent your electric car batteries from reaching extremely high or low temperatures.