Electric vehicles (“EVs”) are an elegant evolution of the traditional fossil fuel cars we are used to. Rather than a noisy combustion engine, electric cars rely on a whisper-quiet electric motor coupled with a lithium-ion battery for power and movement. Eliminating the combustion engine and the fossil fuels that power it makes EVs extremely clean because they do not produce carbon emissions at the tailpipe. However, did you know that EVs retain a component from their fossil fuel counterparts that plays an extremely important role?
Alongside the high-voltage battery pack installed at the bottom, most electrified vehicles also feature a lead-acid 12-volt battery. This old-school battery is integral, performing a variety of duties that are crucial to the performance of an electric vehicle. Your electric vehicle won’t be able to run regardless of the amount of charge left in its battery if this 12- volt battery malfunctions. So don’t ditch your jumper cables just yet — you may need them in the future.
How so? Well, it has to do with how electricity flows through an EV.
Generally, EVs use electricity for two functions: propelling the vehicle and everything else. The large, high-voltage battery along the bottom of the electric vehicle is in charge of propulsion. It feeds its power directly into the electric motor, with the large size and high voltage making it perfect for generating torque and charging. But while the electric motor requires more voltage to function, the air conditioner and stereo don’t.
That’s where the 12-volt battery comes in. Ryan Miller, the manager of electrified powertrain development at Hyundai, says the low-volt, lead-acid battery powers all the electrical control units in an EV. The battery also powers the power relays separating the power from the lithium-ion battery pack and the rest of the EV’s high-voltage network. This separation keeps high voltages away from low voltages when the vehicle is parked or in case of an accident to minimize fire risks.
The lead-acid battery in your EV can also drain just like the ones in traditional cars. Fortunately, you can use an ordinary pair of jumper cables to jump-start your EV. Aside from battery electric vehicles (“BEVs”), plug-in hybrids also feature 12-volt batteries. The Ford Escape Hybrid, for instance, has one such unit bolted under the rear cargo floor in the spare-tire well. It is apparent that 12-volt, lead-acid batteries aren’t going anywhere just yet, even if traditional cars completely disappear from the roads and models made by EV firms such as ElectraMeccanica Vehicles Corp. Ltd. (NASDAQ: SOLO) dominate the roads.
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