Most car batteries have changed very little over many decades, but some have seen vast improvements in design. There have also been new versions of batteries produced for the electric car industry that do not work in exactly the same way as the starter batteries found in cars with fuel-burning engines. How these batteries work is very simplistic in one way, but in another they are a brilliant concept. Let’s take a look at how starter car batteries operate.
The most common form of starter battery found in cars is the lead acid battery. In this battery, electricity is produced as a result of a chemical reaction between several lead plates and plates of lead oxide in a solution of sulfuric acid and water. During the chemical reaction, the sulfate ion in the sulfuric acid chemically combines with the lead plates to form lead sulfate. Electrons are allowed to “flow” during this chemical transition and this is the essence of the electrical energy from the battery. The reaction is completely reversible when electricity is forced back into the battery by the alternator as you drive.
Batteries several decades ago allowed for access to the internal compartment where the lead plates and acid are stored. This enabled drivers and farmers to add water back to the battery after water and acid solution would slowly leak from them. Due to advancements in design today, most lead acid batteries do not require such user-serviceable operation. As a matter of fact, most batteries carry warnings which let the consumer know that they are not to attempt to open the battery for any reason. Care should be taken when charging a battery or carrying the battery back to a dealer for exchange since gases can build up in the battery and if the battery becomes hot the outer casing can be ruptured.
Although important for the start-up of the car, the battery is necessary in order for the proper operation of any car made after the mid-1980’s. This fact is due to the use of on-board car computers that are needed to control the operation of the car during driving as well as electronic fuel injectors. Without a constant flow of electricity from the battery, the car will eventually stall. Without electricity, today’s fuel injectors will cease to work and will not be able to deliver fuel to the cylinders. Older cars that have manual carburetors can operate without a battery as long as you can first get the car started.