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How electric batteries are made

The design, functionality and price of vehicle electric batteries are the decisive factors in any decision to invest in the mass manufacture of electric vehicles (EVs)…

Electric batteries are integral to the main formats of electric vehicles (EVs) namely, hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and all-electric vehicles (EVs). Lithium-ion batteries are the current market leader, far outweighing alternatives such as Nickel-Metal Hydride batteries, or Lead-Acid batteries and Ultra capacitors.

Electric-vehicle batteries, or traction batteries, differ from the batteries that power torches, radios or toys. For a start, they deliver greater power over a much longer period, owing to their high ampere-hour capacity, high power and energy-to-weight ratio and high energy density. However, in comparison to petrol engines, current batteries still have a limited range between recharging stops.
For instance, the Nissan Leaf, with its lithium-ion battery, has a range of just 150 miles. According to Nissan, a replacement battery for the Nissan Leaf hybrid is currently £4,920 while the list price of the cheapest Nissan Leaf retails from £21,680. At these prices, demand is depressed.

China is the market leader in lithium-ion electric battery production with a 55 percent market share, which is expected to rise to around 65 percent by 2021, based on mass manufacture of hybrid vehicles as a stepping stone towards EVs. Surprisingly, despite the media prominence of Elon Musk and his Giga-battery factory, the U.S. market share is just 10 percent. The traction battery market is forecast to reach $25 billion by 2020 assuming sales of 11 million hybrids and 1.5 million apiece of fully electric cars and range extenders, across China, Japan, the U.S. and western Europe.

Battery composition

The three primary components of a lithium-ion electric batteries are the positive and negative electrodes and an electrolyte. Generally, the negative electrode is made from carbon or graphite, the positive is made from a metal oxide and the electrolyte is composed of lithium salt in an organic solvent. The electrochemical roles of the electrodes reverse between anode and cathode, depending on the direction of current flow through the cell.

Depending on composition, the voltage, energy density, life and safety of a lithium-ion battery can vary dramatically. Recently, nanotechnology has helped to improve performance and reduce the possibility of electric batteries catching fire. Continue reading



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