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What are the different types of Electric Car Battery Technologies?

Written by John Winger

Battery TechnologyNEVs (neighborhood electric vehicle) (such as ZENN, ZAP, and GEM cars) are small low speed vehicles designed to drive on roads with speed limits of no more than 35 MPH. They typically have a 6-pack battery configuration consisting of GEL or otherwise called VRLA (valve regulated lead acid) batteries.

A GEL battery is a low maintenance VRLA battery with a gelified electrolyte. Unlike a traditional wet-cell lead-acid battery, these batteries may be stored in any position - not necessarily upright. They virtually eliminate the possibility of spillage. Though they are supposed to withstand extreme weather conditions better than wet-cell lead acid batteries, they still need to be run regularly to recharge themselves. The more they are utilized, the better they perform and the more miles the NEV can drive between charges. Expect less than the manufacturers claimed maximum mileage when first starting out with an NEV. Without regular use the battery will go bad and need replacing - especially in cold climates.

AGM BatteryRecently, later models of some electric cars such as the ZENN have come out with AGM (Absorbent Glass Mat) batteries. This new improved VRLA battery allows the electrolytes to be absorbed into glass fibers. The plates holding the glass may be flat, or wound (spiral wound). They are an improvement due to their smaller size and unique construction which allows for a purer lead composition - allowing for better conductivity. They may also be charged quicker and have a little better power density overall than the former GEL batteries.

Then we have the current premium electric battery on the market that will be used in the upcoming GM Volt and are currently being used in the Tesla electric cars - the lithium ion battery. Lithium ion batteries have been around since the 1970's but some recent advanced nano-architecture has improved their performance. The primary components of the battery are the anode, cathode, and electrolyte for which various materials may be utilized. The choice of material used for the anode, cathode, and electrolyte determines a great deal about performance, safety considerations, voltage and lifespan of lithium ion batteries.

Lithium Ion batteries can be manufactured into differing sizes and shapes to fit spaces in the cars they power. They are also lighter as the energy in these batteries is stored through the movement of lithium ions.

Current Tesla Motors electric cars utilize Lithium Cobalt Oxide (lithium ion batteries) which contain layers of lithium isolated between plates of octahedra which is made from a combination of cobalt and oxygen atoms.

Lithium Ion Battery

The GM Volt will use a Nickel Metal Hydride (Lithium Ion Battery) which uses a hydrogen-absorbing metal alloy for the negative electrode.

See our article about replacement costs and warranties on electric car batteries.

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