How Does a Lithium-Ion EV Battery Work?

Now that electric vehicles are taking over our roads, more and more people are interested in the technology behind these vehicles. Electric vehicles are equipped with tons of exciting technology. In today’s electric vehicles you can find everything from regenerative brakes to advanced fast charging.

But apart from electric motors, the most important component of an electric vehicle is its battery. The lithium battery in most electric vehicles is also one of the most controversial parts of an electric vehicle. Read on to find out how lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles help advance these advanced machines.


Why are lithium-ion batteries important?

Lithium-ion batteries are at the heart of the electric vehicle revolution. These batteries offer a large energy density, especially compared to lead acid batteries, which are much heavier if comparable capacity is to be achieved. Lithium-ion batteries are also ideal for use in electric vehicles because they can be recharged many times, which is essential for use in electric vehicles that require long charge / recharge cycles over their useful life. Another reason lithium-ion batteries are all over the news is the environmental impact caused by mining these batteries.


Throughout the life of an electric vehicle, thanks to its zero tailpipe emissions, electric vehicles are very clean. But the initial impact of mining the materials that go into an electric vehicle’s lithium-ion battery is costly to the environment. Not only this, but many people worry about the conditions that many workers in these mines face on a daily basis. For this reason, recycling of these materials is a huge priority for many of the automakers actively involved in the production of electric vehicles.

What is a lithium ion battery?

A lithium-ion battery contains cells that contain a positive cathode and a negative anode. There is also an electrolyte that separates these two layers, and through chemical reactions that release electrons, the battery can supply electrical energy to whatever it is connected to. The number of cells determines the battery capacity, measured in kWh. In the case of the lithium ion battery, lithium is one of the most important components contained in the battery, and this is because lithium is very willing to give up an electron.


Through the chemical reactions that take place in the anode and cathode, the lithium-ion battery can be charged and discharged many times. This is due to the fact that these chemical reactions can be reversed many times. Lithium-ion batteries come in many shapes and sizes and are used in applications as diverse as consumer electronics and electric vehicles. Of course, the lithium-ion batteries in an electric vehicle are much larger than what you might find in your smartphone, but they still work according to the same principles.

One of the biggest advantages of lithium-ion batteries is their large energy density, which makes them relatively light compared to other battery technologies. Manufacturers need to be careful when designing and implementing lithium-ion batteries in their devices because if the anode and cathode were to be exposed to each other, these batteries can undergo chemical reactions which could cause fires or even small explosions. .

While lithium-ion batteries are doing a great job powering electric vehicles, they face a challenge in the next solid-state battery. It remains to be seen whether solid-state batteries can be improved enough to see traditional use in a major automaker’s range of electric vehicles.

How does a lithium ion battery work?

The basic lithium-ion battery takes advantage of the chemistry of its materials. These batteries are equipped with lithium, a metal eager to lose an electron, forming lithium ions, from which the battery gets its name. These batteries are made up of a positive electrode called a cathode, which features a metal oxide (cobalt is a common choice). These batteries also feature a negative electrode called an anode, which is commonly made of graphite, and graphite allows lithium to slip between it.


Between the cathode and the anode, a liquid electrolyte facilitates the movement of lithium ions from the anode to the cathode. The battery is also equipped with a porous separator, essential for maintaining battery safety, as it prevents the anode and cathode from coming into direct contact with each other. If the two electrodes of the battery were to come into direct contact, the result would be catastrophic. When a lithium-ion battery powers a device, the lithium intercalated in the graphite-containing anode loses an electron.

This process creates lithium ions and a free electron. Lithium ions travel from the anode to the cathode via the electrolyte and the porous separator. As the lithium ions move through the separator, the electrons take a different path that leads them through the electronic device to be powered. Once through the device, the electrons end up at the cathode. When the battery needs to be recharged, the process pretty much starts all over again, but in reverse.

This is why lithium-ion batteries are so great for use in electric vehicles, as the process can be repeated many times. When charging the lithium-ion battery, the charger forces the electrons out of the cathode, providing a flow of electrons into the anode. This causes the entire chemical process that occurred while the battery was discharging to reverse, with the lithium ions leaving the cathode and returning to the anode. At the end of the charging process, the battery is ready for use again.

Electric vehicle battery technology will continue to improve

Electric vehicle batteries are already providing electric vehicles with amazing range and can be used many times. But there are still many things to improve with this technology, most notably the way electric vehicle batteries are recycled once they reach the end of their useful life. It remains to be seen whether lithium-ion technology is maintained long enough to see monumental improvements or replaced entirely with promising technology like solid-state batteries.

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