Do Electric Cars Have Alternators? [Why Not!]

The electric car was invented to reduce carbon emissions, reduce the reliance on fossil fuels, and minimize moving components found in fuel-driven vehicles. An alternator is a crucial power generating component in combustible engines, generating electricity to charge the battery while driving. Do electric cars have alternators?

Electric cars don’t have engines or alternators. Instead, an electric car is fitted with an electric traction motor powered by high-voltage rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, known as the traction battery pack. The traction battery pack is recharged by plugging into the electricity grid.

Alternators are power generating units connected to the engine’s crankshaft, which generate electricity to charge a car’s battery while in motion. Electrical cars don’t have crankshafts or engines and do not need an alternator. Here’s why.

Do Electric Cars Have Alternators?

Try as you might, you won’t ever find an alternator in an electric car, as they don’t have one. Electric cars get their power from a traction battery pack.

The traction battery pack powers the electric traction motor by sending out the required power (DC) before an inverter converts the power to the required current (AC.)

An auxiliary 12-volt battery is used to power separate accessories. It is charged via a DC-DC converter using power received from the traction battery pack, which is charged by plugging into the electrical grid.

How Do You Charge The Batteries In An Electric Car?

Unlike the alternator, which generates the electricity stored in a gasoline car’s 12-volt battery, the electric car is required to recharge its batteries by accessing the electrical grid, either at home or at a commercial charging station found across the country.

There are 3 ways to charge an electric car:

  • Level 1: Requiring no special charging equipment, using a 120-volt outlet is the slowest way to charge an electric car, providing the electric car between 2-5 miles per charging hour.
  • Level 2: Requires special charging equipment when charged at home as this charging method uses a 220-volt or a 240-volt outlet, providing 10-25 miles per charging hour. All public charging stations providing level 2 charging facilities will be compatible with any electric car.
  • Level 3: Done at a specialty charging station that converts AC electricity to DC electricity within the station. These stations are faster than other charging methods and can charge the traction battery pack in 15-45 minutes.

What Part Of A Electric Car Is Similar To An Alternator?

Most electric cars feature an auxiliary 12-volt battery that powers the vehicle’s accessories without drawing power from the traction battery pack. The auxiliary battery is typically a standard 12-volt lead-acid battery.

The 12-volt battery powers automotive accessories such as radios, headlights, computers, fans, wipers, airbags, power windows, and other instrumentation. Because all of these components are easily accessible and standardized at 12 volts, it makes economic sense for an electric vehicle to employ them.

Depending on the electronic design, some electric cars will require a DC-to-DC converter to keep this battery charged. This converter takes the direct current electricity from the main battery arrangement (300 volts DC) and adjusts it to 12 volts to charge the auxiliary battery.

Can Electric Cars Be Fitted With An Alternator?

With modern technology peaking, fitting an alternator to an electric car’s battery is doable, but the result would be self-defeating. Using the rechargeable battery found in an electric car to spin and power an alternator will use up more electricity than it generates.

It’s the same as paying credit card debt with another credit card; it doesn’t make sense.

Do Electric Cars Charge While Driving?

Electric cars, with the current technology, don’t charge while driving. The self-charging technology is still in its infancy stages; however, expect future electric cars to have this feature. Self-charging roads or using the sun’s energy to charge up while driving is options that come to mind.

What Powers An Electric Car?

Electric car charging stantion. Transportation theme.

The following mechanisms power the electrical car, and as you will see, there’s no need for an alternator in its design.

Electric Vehicle Inverter

Electric cars are fitted with lithium-ion batteries, which only accept and distribute Direct Current (DC). To power the electric traction motors in the electric car, the DC power needs to be converted to Alternating Current (AC.)

It’s the inverter’s job to change the electricity the battery provides from DC to AC and control the frequency of the AC being sent to the electric traction motor. Many inverters recover displaced (unused AC power) energy while the electric car decelerates, transferring it back into the battery pack as DC power in regeneration.

Inverters are also employed to regulate the frequency of the AC provided to the motor, so they have a direct part in managing the speed of an electric car.

Electric Traction Motor

The electric traction motor is the reason an electric car moves and is powered by AC received from the inverter. A rotating magnetic field is created upon receiving the AC electrons, which causes the motor to turn. Pedal power to the engine is immediate.

Traction Battery Pack

The traction battery pack consists of lithium-ion batteries and is tasked with storing energy received from the grid when charging. The stored energy is then supplied to the electric car’s traction motor and all electrical components requiring energy.

Electric Powertrain

The electric powertrain is the whole high voltage electrical system found in an electric car, including:

  • Invertor
  • Electric Traction Motor
  • Reduction Drive
  • Controller
  • Traction Battery Pack

Controller

The brain of the electric car, managing all parameters, is called the controller. Using information from the battery, the controller controls the charge rate and operates between the motor and the batteries.

The controller regulates the electrical energy from inverters and batteries distributed to electric motors and controls the speed and acceleration by translating pressure on the accelerator pedal to adjust the speed in the motor inverter. The controller acts like a gasoline-vehicles carburetor.

Electric Car Charge Port

The electric car’s charge port is where the magic happens. The charge port is where you connect to a power source outlet to recharge the traction battery pack, either at home or via EVSE (Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment), commonly referred to as a charging station.

Conclusion

Electric cars don’t have alternators. Seeing that they don’t have an internal combustion engine; but rather an electric traction motor, there’s no need for one.

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