Hybrids & Electrics

Is There a Difference Between a Regular Car Battery and Electric Car Battery?

Many drivers are confused about the difference between the batteries used in an electric vehicle (EV) and a regular car battery required for traditional internal combustion. An EV utilizes two types of batteries that serve distinct purposes.

  1. Lithium-ion batteries: Typically found underneath the interior carriage, a series of these batteries generate the required energy to operate its induction motor.
  2. Deep cycle battery: This battery serves as a secondary power source to operate accessories, like the radio and windshield wipers. It resembles a traditional vehicle’s lead-acid battery, but there are two major internal differences.

A tale of two lead-acid batteries

Both the gas-fueled and electric vehicles utilize a lead-acid battery that uses the same chemistry to operate. The difference is in their internal designs.

Designed for the gas engine, a traditional internal combustion battery requires a short burst of high energy to crank the engine and start the car. Once running, the vehicle’s alternator takes over as the power supply. By contrast, an electric vehicle deep-cycle battery is designed to continually discharge energy while the vehicle runs.

The power of a 12V lead-acid battery

Commonly referred to as a 12V battery, the lead-acid car battery technically produces 12.6V of energy. It consists of six cells, and each makes 2.1 volts. A lead-acid battery stores electrical energy in chemical form. In other words, it converts chemical energy into electrical energy. The electrical current is produced as a result of a chemical reaction between the plates and sulfuric acid solution in which they’re submerged.

An internal investigation of lead-acid batteries

  • Cold-cranking amps (CCAs):  “The amount of current a battery can provide at 0°F for 30 seconds.”
  • Reserve Capacity (RC):  “The amount of time a battery can provide 25 amps while keeping voltage above 10.5V.”

A deep-cycle battery provides only about one-half to three-quarters of the CCAs that a gasoline-fueled battery will. It does, however, deliver two to three times the RC energy.

Conventional gasoline engine 12V lead-acid battery

A 12V lead-acid battery that powers a gas engine requires thin plates. The thinner material allows the electrons to move more quickly through the system during startup. It’s designed solely for a quick powerful burst of energy.

Electric vehicle 12V lead-acid battery

Designed to repeatedly discharge energy, an electric vehicle’s 12V lead-acid battery requires much thicker plates than its gasoline-fueled predecessor. So, while it doesn’t have the same power at startup, it’s designed to provide sustained energy.

A new tide of vehicles

As the efficiency of EVs continues to improve and prices become more affordable, a new generation of cars is poised for the collective embrace of the car-buying public. Their economic and environmental benefits alone warrant a change in consciousness. In fact, there may be little reason to mourn a V8’s power in the not-too-distant future.

California-based Electric GT is developing an electric V8 for conversions on older gas engine vehicles. The basic motor delivers an impressive 140 hp with 240 lb-ft of torque. The company is currently working on an electric conversion of the Toyota FJ. Designed to fit right into the existing vehicle’s structure, the engine substitution allows for the retention of both the original transmission and drivetrain.

A future that includes environmentally-responsible travel and independence from oil-producing nations is indeed a new tide in the industrial revolution.