There isn’t a day that goes by that the average American household doesn’t thrive from the convenience of batteries. Remote controls, cell phones, Bluetooth headsets, tablets, toys, the list goes on and on and on, ironically similar to the Energizer Bunny. Most people don’t question the batteries used in their devices. Recharging is typically as simple as plugging in a cord or purchasing a set of replacement batteries at the nearest convenient store. If the type of battery comes into question, most items usually print the requirements directly on the package. Plain and simple. But what about the batteries used in the up-and-coming zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) quickly advancing in the global automotive market? Batteries that will not only be utilized and charged on a daily basis, but will be necessary for the transportation needs of millions of people in a few short years. Do consumers really understand the battery components of ZEVs?
All ZEVs are not created equally, and those differences can start with something as basic as the battery.
ZEVs use electricity stored in a battery pack to power an electric motor and turn the wheels. When depleted, the batteries are recharged using grid electricity, either from a wall socket or a dedicated charging unit, never depending on gasoline or diesel to run. Manufacturers currently use two main types of rechargeable batteries: Nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) and Lithium-ion batteries.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy Alternative Fuels Data Center, nickel-metal hydride batteries have been used successfully in all-electric vehicles and are widely used in hybrid electric vehicles due to the fact that they have a much longer life cycle than previously used lead-acid batteries and are safe and abuse tolerant.
Lithium-ion batteries are used in most of today’s plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and all-electric vehicles and are currently used in most portable consumer electronics such as cell phones and laptops because of their high energy per unit mass relative to other electrical energy storage systems.
As the rise in ZEV sales continues to escalate amid global mandates for a zero-emission future, people want answers to their pressing battery questions: Are the battery options available the best that manufacturers can offer consumers? Are they the only viable options? And how will the batteries be disposed of once they can no longer be recharged? These are a few of the questions we will be answering in Part II of All Zero-Emission Vehicles Are Not Created Equal as we explore potential battery alternatives and the disposal infrastructure that must go along with global automotive change.