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How are electric vehicle batteries manufactured?

How are electric vehicle batteries manufactured?

When people talk about the electric vehicle battery, they often fail to consider the beauty of its design. EV battery design does not end with just each individual cell, where it begins. We need to look into the entirety of the EV battery pack design and how the cells are combined so that overall battery output is capable of powering an entire electric vehicle.

To better appreciate EV battery design, we need to ask the question “How are EV batteries manufactured?” In answer to this question, we delve into the manufacturing process that goes into the assembly of a battery pack.

What are EV batteries?

EV batteries are the power sources of an electric vehicle, so it is not surprising that they are also called the “heart” of the EV. If you think of EV batteries as a single cell, like what you use in everyday gadgets, such as a flashlight or your smartphone, the electric vehicle cannot run on just one or two cells. The term “EV battery” actually refers to the battery pack, since it contains many individual EV battery cells that provide sufficient power for your EV to run.

The beauty of EV battery manufacturing lies in how these EV battery cells are combined to form a pack. But more on this in a later section.

What are EV batteries made of?

To better understand what EV batteries are made of, we first need to talk about the EV battery components in a single cell.

The electric vehicle battery cell consists of four major components: the negative electrode known as the anode, the positive electrode known as the cathode, the electrolyte, and the separator.

In general, EV batteries are made of base metals namely aluminum, copper, and iron. However, the battery types are distinguished from each other by the materials that can be found in the anode and cathode.

Here are the EV battery types available today and the materials that are found in them:

BATTERY TYPE ANODE CATHODE
Nickel-Cadmium Batteries Cadmium hydroxide Nickel hydroxide
Lead-Acid Batteries Lead Lead (*electrolyte is mild sulfuring acid)
Nickel-Metal Hydride Batteries Hydrogen absorbing alloy Nickel oxy-hydroxide
Lithium-ion Batteries Lithium and graphite Lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese

What’s the difference between EV battery cell, module, and pack?

There are three major elements in the EV design hierarchy:

  • EV battery cells – these are the smallest units in the hierarchy, coming in cylindrical, pouch, or prismatic formats. In the case of lithium-ion batteries, a single battery produces 1 – 6V of power.
  • EV battery modules – single battery cells are connected together in series or in parallel and contained within a sturdy housing
  • EV battery packs – the final form of the EV battery. Here, the modules are connected together in series or in parallel to produce the amount of power needed for specific applications in an electric vehicle. The EV battery pack is almost always the heaviest part in an electric vehicle.

How long do EV batteries last?

On average, an EV battery, specifically lithium-ion EV batteries, have a lifespan of between 10 and 20 years before they need to be replaced. EV batteries do not just die fully, instead they lose charging capacity slowly over a period of time. For example, the Tesla Model S battery loses 5% of its original capacity after driving for the first 50,000 miles.

What is the assembly process in manufacturing EV batteries?

In manufacturing EV batteries, it is important to take into consideration the design of the battery. This includes its size, frame, and the power requirements of the electric vehicle as part of the EV battery production process.

The assembly process of EV batteries begins with the single cell. Inside the cell, the anode and cathode are placed inside the housing with a separator that keeps them apart from each other. The fluid electrolyte is then poured inside, immersing the two electrodes. The housing is then sealed. Each cell is first tested for electrolyte leaks which may cause disastrous fires or explosions. The next step is a moisture check to see if moisture from the external environment enters the EV battery cell.

The individual cells are combined into another larger and sturdy housing to form battery modules. A typical module may contain 12 cells. Specialized battery collector plates are used to create robust connections to the individual cells and aggregate the power for output from the modules. The housing is necessary to protect the cells from external shocks which may cause damage to both the individual cells and the modules. Similar leak and moisture checks are done to the module to ensure that its structural integrity is retained and can withstand environmental stresses.

The final stage in the EV battery pack assembly process is the combining of the modules into robust battery packs. A technician manually makes the connections to the battery pack, and from it to the various systems in the electric vehicle. However, to make the seals in the pack more secure, robot arms are used to insert and tighten screws and other parts.

How to promote sustainability in manufacturing EV batteries

As mentioned earlier, an EV battery has a lifespan of between 10 to 20 years, which means that it will take two decades before the battery ultimately “dies”. It does not mean, however, that they are no longer usable once they “die”. In fact, a sustainable EV battery is what makes an electric vehicle more appealing to “green-minded” individuals.

At present, old EV batteries are brought to recycling centers to be shredded to obtain the metals contained therein, specifically aluminum, copper, cobalt, and lithium. In manufacturing EV batteries, these recycled metals can be reused in the making of new batteries.

In addition, it is not true that all EV batteries are completely depleted of their capacity. These batteries can be reused for secondary storage of solar and wind energy.

Because of the fear of depletion of metal resources and the high cost of mining new materials, future EV battery technology is focused on reclaiming the metals that are contained in old batteries and utilizing them in the manufacture of new batteries.

Discover how our battery interconnect system helped a leading EV manufacturer overcome design challenges

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