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When it comes to charging a car battery, many drivers may be under the impression that the only way to do so is by plugging it into an external charger or jump-starting it with another vehicle.
Did you know that your car's alternator, which is powered by the engine, plays a critical role in charging the battery while you drive?
Well, in this article, we will go over the concept of charging the batteries of cars in detail. Let's start by understanding the process by which a car battery gets charged while driving.
There are two methods to charge a car battery over a certain distance, which are discussed below.
When a vehicle is in motion, the engine powers the alternator, which generates electricity to charge the battery and power the car's electrical systems. The alternator is connected to the engine by a belt and uses the energy from the engine to spin a rotor inside a stator. This spinning motion generates an alternating current (AC) that is then converted into a direct current (DC) through a series of diodes. This direct current is then used to charge the battery.
Regenerative braking is another way that batteries can be charged while driving. It's a technology that captures the energy normally lost during braking and uses it to charge the battery. When a driver applies the brakes, the electric motor in the vehicle acts as a generator, converting the kinetic energy of the car into electrical energy. This energy is then stored in the battery for later use.
In the case of electric vehicles (EVs), the regenerative braking system can add significant miles to the range of the vehicle during highway driving, as well as when driving in the city. This is because, when the driver applies the brake, the motor works in reverse, slowing the vehicle down, and at the same time, the energy used to slow the vehicle down is converted into electrical energy and stored back into the battery.
According to a study conducted by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), the alternator can generate enough electricity to power the car's electrical systems and charge the battery while the car is in motion. In fact, the study found that the alternator can charge the battery to as much as 90% of its capacity within an hour of driving.
However, it's important to note that a short drive may not fully charge a heavily depleted battery. In such cases, it is recommended to drive the car for at least 15 to 20 minutes to allow the alternator to charge the battery. A longer drive, such as a 30-minute to an hour-long trip, would be even more beneficial in ensuring that the battery is properly charged.
Battery condition and alternator performance also play a role in how quickly the battery can be charged. A battery that is in poor condition or an alternator that is not working efficiently may not charge as quickly as a healthy battery and a functioning alternator.
Regenerative braking is a technology that captures the energy normally lost during braking and uses it to charge the battery. This feature is found in most electric vehicles, including Tesla.
For example, Tesla's Model S and Model X vehicles are equipped with regenerative braking systems that can add up to 10 miles of range per hour of highway driving. This means that a driver who regularly commutes on the highway could potentially charge their battery simply by driving to and from work each day.
Furthermore, Tesla's newer models, such as the Model 3 and Model Y, have even more advanced regenerative braking systems that can add up to 18 miles of range per hour of highway driving. This feature is known as "Max Regenerative Braking," which lets the vehicle recharge the battery to the fullest extent possible when driving, which is a significant addition to the charging of the battery.
The time it takes to charge a battery can vary greatly depending on the type of charger being used, the capacity of the battery, and the current state of charge.
First, it is important to understand the different types of chargers available for EVs.
The capacity of the battery also plays a significant role in determining charging time. A larger battery with a higher capacity will take longer to charge than a smaller battery with a lower capacity. Additionally, the current state of charge of the battery also affects charging time. A battery that is already partially charged will take less time to fully charge than a completely depleted battery.
According to a study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the average time to charge an EV battery with a Level 2 charger is 4.5 hours. This time can vary depending on the specific make and model of the EV, as well as the capacity of the battery. For example, the NREL study found that the Tesla Model S, with a 90 kWh battery, took 7.5 hours to charge with a Level 2 charger, while the Nissan Leaf, with a 30 kWh battery, took 3.5 hours.
Fast charging options can greatly reduce charging time, with some EV models capable of charging up to 80% in as little as 30 minutes with a Level 3 charger. However, it should be noted that fast charging can have a negative impact on battery longevity. According to a study by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, fast charging an EV battery just once a week can reduce the overall life of the battery by as much as 25%.
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According to the US Department of Transportation, the slowest equipment, Level 1, charges using a standard 120-volt (120V) AC outlet found in homes.
A battery electric vehicle (BEV) can be fully charged using a level 1 charger in 40–50 hours, while a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) can be fully charged in 5–6 hours.
The US Department of Transportation declared that Level 2 equipment is typically used for home, office, and public charging and offers to charge through 240V (in residential applications) or 208V (in commercial applications) electrical service.
BEVs can be fully charged using level 2 chargers in 4–10 hours, while PHEVs can be fully charged in 1–2 hours.