At Least EVs Have Just One Battery . . .

  • January 6, 2024

EV batteries have many faults. They are preposterously inefficient as energy storage devices. It takes about 800 pounds of EV battery to store the energy equivalent of about half a tank of gas (which weighs less than 50 pounds). It takes a preposterously long time for them to recover the energy they burn through so quickly (this business of characterizing as “fast” having to wait 30 minutes to recover a partial charge is akin to characterizing as “public servants” people who tell you what to do).

Massively heavy EV batteries also accelerate the wear of tires (which are made of rubber, which is made of petroleum) and accelerate the obsolescing of vehicles, which when battery powered don’t last as long – requiring fresh raw materials to make new ones and using more energy to get the raw materials and transform them into new battery powered devices.

But at least EVs have just the one battery.

Most new cars have two. A main and an auxiliary battery. Because most new cars have ASS – the wonderfully apt acronym for Automatic Stop/Start “technology.” Part of this “technology” is a secondary battery that ASSists with all that stop-starting, which burns up a lot of electricity.

Ordinarily – in the days before ASS – a car had a single 12v battery that started the engine.

Italics to emphasize the singular.

Once started, the engine ran until the driver shut it off – as by turning the ignition to Off. In between, the engine replenished the charge that was discharged by starting the engine so that the battery would be ready to start the engine again when it was time to go for another drive.

In the era of ASS, the engine is repeatedly being re-started after having been repeatedly stopped by the “technology” every time the car stops moving, as while waiting to get going again at a red light. It is not uncommon, during the course of a morning drive-to-work in stop-and-go traffic, for the engine to be stop/started a dozen times or more. This reduces the amount of that dreadful gas – carbon dioxide – that plants must have to live and which they use to produce the oxygen we must have to able to breathe. And that’s why almost all new cars that still have engines have ASS. It is a compliance tool that the car manufacturers use to enable them to continue building cars that aren’t entirely battery powered devices.

There is almost no meaningful gas mileage “savings.” You might see a 1 MPG overall gain.

That’s why – in the Before Time – the counsel was to not shut off the car’s engine while waiting at a red light. Just the same as the law still says that shutting off the engine (or putting the transmission in neutral, which amounts to the same thing) while the car is coasting downhill is illegal – because doing that can be unsafe – because it can reduce traction/stability, especially in a rear-drive vehicle that’s light in the tail.

Never mind. It is now a different time.

You will, however, gain something else. Something that is necessary because of what ASS costs – beyond the annoyance of the engine constantly shutting itself off and then re-starting, accompanied by a noticeable sound/feel and slight delay. The car manufacturers have reduced the delay to almost none. But it is not none. It takes a moment for the ASS system to restart the engine and that means an additional moment before the car will move. If you’re one of those Before Times drivers who is ready to go when the light turns green, it is annoying to be obliged to pause a moment while the car gets ready to go. ASS is probably contributing significantly to slowed-down response times at intersections, worsening traffic which – oh, the humanity – probably results in more fuel wasted overall than is “saved” by ASS.

Never mind, again.

And the gain?

It is the second battery that is part of the ASS “technology,” made necessary (apparently) by the heavy-lifting expected of the starting/electrical system. Each restart requires electrical power to turn the starter motor that turns the engine over. Most ASS-equipped cars have a very high-torque starter that turns the engine over very quickly, so as to get it started as close to instantaneously as possible. As you can imagine, this draws a lot of electricity. If you can’t imagine it, think about starting your car’s engine, then shutting it off. Then doing that again. And again. And again. How long before it won’t start – because you drained the battery?

Ordinarily, once started, the running engine mechanically powers the alternator – which then replenishes the charge lost in starting the engine (as well as producing the electricity need to power the car’s electrical systems). The battery is resting – and recovering – while you’re driving.

Assuming the engine’s running.

But if ASS is involved, the battery – if there’s just the one – will be struggling to handle all those serial restarts and keep the accessories powered while the engine off; the alternator may not be able to replenish the charge lost, if the engine isn’t running long enough to accomplish that. The result can be a depleted starter battery – and a car that might not start. Adding a second battery (apparently, to store up some extra charge for the ASS system, to keep the car’s accessories powered up when the engine is off ) is the salve for this compliance-created problem.

Naturally, the buyer pays for this – twice. Once, up front – when he buys the car. Then again, sometime later – when the secondary battery inevitably dies. The latter cost to be paid at the dealership – because the secondary battery is not easily replaced by the owner.

Come to think of it, neither is the primary battery. It is no longer a simple matter of disconnecting two cables and removing it, then replacing it with a new battery and re-connecting the two cables. If you disconnect the battery in this Before Times way, you may not be able to start the car again – even if the battery is brand new and has plenty of charge.

More about this here, if interested.

Speaking of interest… . Did anyone ask for ASS?

You might as well ask whether anyone asked for “advanced driver assistance technology.”

Such questions are anachronisms; lingering habits from the Before Times, when cars were fitted out with the equipment buyers wanted. In this time, they are fitted with equipment almost no one wants – yet everyone is obliged to suffer who is still willing to buy a new car.

. . .

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