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Jul 31, 2020

6 min. read

Here's a fun fact: not all motorized machines require a battery to operate.

Sure, an electric starter needs a jolt of juice from a battery to fire up an engine but, once underway, there are cases where a battery isn't needed at all. If there aren’t any accessories such as lights, some vehicles run just fine without a battery!

But, as we all know, modern road-going vehicles have plenty of features and accessories that are hungry for electricity. Modern batteries in gas-powered cars are primarily responsible for what engineers call SLI - starting, lighting, and ignition. Once the vehicle is running, an alternator supplies a current to systems that need electricity and sends some juice back to the battery so it's ready for the next starting cycle. The battery can also serve as a voltage stabilizer, absorbing random power spikes that might otherwise damage sensitive car computers or sensors.

Traditional versus electric.

It's important to make the distinction between a traditional car battery, which is the focus of this article and those of batteries which are deployed to power electric vehicles.

Traditional car batteries are generally lead-acid, a type of rechargeable battery that is reliable and inexpensive on a cost-per-watt scale. Batteries for electronic vehicles can hold much more energy in a smaller footprint but are more expensive to manufacture and replace. The recent rise of start/stop systems as an everyday part of engine technology has put renewed focus on this very issue.

When the system is active, such as waiting at a stop sign, all these accessories still have to be supplied with electricity. The stereo is on, a smartphone is being charged, and the ventilation system is cooling the car's cabin. In addition to these demands, the engine must still fire up at a moment's notice when the driver presses the “gas” pedal.

To help make this all happen seamlessly, the humble car battery has been the focus of research and innovation, driving new technologies that permit a battery to last longer and perform better than a unit of the same size might have just a decade ago.

Extending battery life?

A group called the Consortium for Battery Innovation is working on a project they hope will increase the charge of a lead-acid battery by 5x, in addition to increasing the unit's life cycle by the same amount.

This would be a major breakthrough for automotive engineers who are tasked with making electricity-hungry entertainment or safety features run and increasing a vehicle's fuel economy. With more robust battery technology, start/stop systems will be able to keep a car's engine silent for longer periods without worrying about the electrical systems being starved for power.

Car companies and their customers are demanding a steadily increasing diet of new car technology, most of which require electricity to function. Thankfully, scientists believe that, despite the technology being well over a hundred years old, they've yet to fully unlock the entire potential of a traditional car battery.

CAA Auto Advice.

Have questions about your vehicle? Let our team of experts help you get answers to all your car-related questions and more! Give CAA Auto Advice a call toll-free at: 1-866-464-6448 or email us at: autoadvice@caasco.ca

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