Electric vehicles (EV) are becoming more common these days. They are considered greener alternatives to conventional gasoline powered vehicles.
The main reason is that they are powered by electricity, which can be obtained from renewable energy sources, rather than an internal combustion engine, which can only be powered by specific fossil fuel ignition.
Since the power source of the car is input into the battery, rather than generated by the car itself, there are a lot of components that are no longer necessary in the engine and are thus missing from electric cars.
Things like spark plugs and fuel injectors are there to generate and manage combustion, and so are unnecessary in an electric car.
These are obvious objects that you can do away with in electric vehicles, but some are more confusing. Like alternators, a completely necessary component of a gas powered car and to the naked eye they could be useful in an EV.
But do EVs have them? In this article, we will look closer at electric vehicles and see whether they have an alternator or not.
What is an Alternator?
You may be sitting here wondering what an alternator is and why it is such an issue. Well, a combustion car relies on mechanical energy to work. Mechanical energy is generated when the fossil fuel in the engine combusts, creating kinetic energy or force. This kinetic force is transferred throughout the engine and makes its way into the alternator.
The alternator is pushed by the kinetic energy and spins at great speed, which creates electrical energy. This in turn powers other necessary systems in your car that are connected to the engine and recharges the battery, which is its main purpose.
How Do Alternators Function?
The way an alternator converts mechanical energy to electrical energy is using the kinetic force generated by the engine to spin a magnetic field around a coil of wire, which generates alternating current (AC).
An alternator has two poles, one positive pole and one negative pole. When the motor turns the alternator, it pulls the magnetic field towards the positive pole and pushes the magnetic field toward the negative pole. This causes the AC voltage to increase and decrease between the positive and negative poles.
When the engine stops turning the alternator, the magnetic field collapses and the AC voltage decreases. This means that the alternator is not generating any electricity after the engine stops running. The same thing happens if the engine starts up again because the magnetic field tries to expand back outwards.
However, as soon as the engine starts turning again, the magnetic field expands and causes the AC voltage to rise again.
In this way, the gas powered car can function properly, and the battery can be recharged.
Do Electric Cars Have Alternators?
Electric cars do not have alternators in them for a variety of reasons. For starters, alternators convert energy, they do not produce it. In order to convert energy from one state to another, your car needs to generate a certain amount of force.
In gas powered cars, this force is generated by combustion and creates mechanical energy. Since electric cars do not have this energy source and don’t actually generate any energy on their own, they cannot convert it.
Another reason is that electrical cars are solely powered by electricity. Alternators convert different kinds of energy into electricity. Since you can not convert energy into the same type of energy without losing basically all the energy, this would make alternators useless in an electric car.
Could Future Electric Cars Have Alternative Alternators?
While great advances are being made with gas powered alternators – such as the TPV generator, which could replace the alternator in the future – there has been no such advance in developing any kind of alternator that could charge an electric car’s battery or at least it has not been spoken about publicly.
To create such a device for EVs would require the manufacturers to figure out how to get the car to generate a secondary energy source. This would be insanely expensive and potentially fruitless, as electric cars run well without an alternator. The convenience is not worth the cost.
How Do Electric Cars Recharge Their Batteries?
When a car is stationary, it can be charged using electricity in the same way one would recharge a laptop. Once you buy an electric car, it will come with a huge cable, normally up to 20 feet long.
This cable can be plugged into a home wall outlet and your car will charge. Unfortunately, your electric motor will have quite a different voltage from your home appliances (the standard for an outlet is 120 volts), and so it will only add 3 to 5 miles for every hour you charge.
As such, most people who own electric cars forked out some cash and got a 240 volt outlet, which will add 25 to 30 miles to your battery for every hour you leave it charging. There are industrial outlets that can charge your car much faster, but these are terribly expensive and only really used in commercial settings.
Can You Charge on the Road with an Electric Car?
There are ways when you are driving around to charge your car, but they require you to meet certain criteria to start the charging process. Currently, the most effective way is through a method called the regenerative braking mechanism.
When your car slows down to certain speeds, the vehicle enters generator mode and uses the kinetic energy produced by the wheels. This kinetic energy is converted into electrical energy and charges the battery. Due to the nature of the process, it cannot be used when the car is driving normally.
Unfortunately, many of the other methods are not very effective, but the ideas are moving in the right direction.
Recharging Electric Cars in the Future
There are obvious problems with attempts to recharge both gas powered and electric cars, with some of the problems covered in the previous paragraphs. However, there may be one solution in the pipeline as well.
Alternative Power Sources
The only way we will be able to recharge an EV in the future is through finding an additional power source to convert into electrical energy. The most probable way we will have to recharge future EVs is solar power right now. This is because you can easily affix solar panels to the outside of your car to charge it while it drives.
This may seem far-fetched, but many companies have invested in this idea and there are even prototype cars that use this technology. Currently, the only car that is totally solar-powered is the prototype Light-year One, which can go up to 450 miles on a single charge, which isn’t much, but it is a step in the right direction.
Electric cars currently do not have alternators, and there are very few plans to include them in electric cars in the future. EVs run fine without them, and they are not really necessary to the current design of the car.
However, there are some interesting ideas and prototypes that may replace alternators in electric cars and may revolutionize the industry.