Knowledge is power, they say, and knowledge about your car can often save you time and money when you’ve got car troubles, even if it may seem like it’s just trivia.
The car battery is one of those pieces of automotive engineering that many drivers probably don’t think about unless it’s giving them trouble. A typical car battery is a DC battery formed by what is called a voltaic cell, where chemical properties are taken advantage of to create a potential difference between two solutions.
It’s not much different from the batteries powering your remote control, but then why don’t you find yourself having to change your car battery every few months?
Well, you have your alternator to thank for that. Quite a few people have heard of the alternator, but I bet if you asked them to tell you what it did, those who tried to answer would probably just say something like, “it alternates.”
The funny thing, though, is that they would be right. The alternator generates an alternating current from a series of coiled wires (like you would see in an electromagnet), which then gets split into two different direct currents that are used to charge your battery and power your electronics.
So your car battery is constantly being charged while you’re driving, ensuring that you hopefully only have to replace it every once in a while. If you find that your lights get dim or that your power accessories only work sporadically, you might want to look into your alternator; frequently it’s the cause of electric issues when people are worried about their batteries.
Now, if you drive a hybrid car, the situation is a bit different. Hybrids generally have a lithium ion battery that, while benefiting from an alternator, really needs a little something more to keep a full charge. That’s where regenerative braking comes in.
Regenerative braking is a process by which your hybrid car converts the friction from braking into electrical energy, and you should be glad for it. It’s one of the many things that keeps hybrid batteries lasting upwards of 10 years. If you think a normal battery is costly to replace, a hybrid is much more expensive.
Some simple physics knowledge is all it takes to know one of the many ways science helps you save money while you drive.