Everything you need to know about electric truck batteries

  • Created:

    September 27, 2022

  • Updated:

    September 28, 2022

Red electric truck with hood open at Truck World 2022
Image credit:
7Gen

Thanks to greater accessibility of vehicles, EV charging stations and government incentives, more people than ever are making the switch to electric cars and trucks. 

However, many fleet managers might have questions about what impact switching to EV batteries may have on their day-to-day activities. Luckily, the vast majority of EV batteries and vehicles available can exceed daily operational needs while bringing a host of health, environmental and financial benefits. 

Let’s look at some of the most common questions about EV batteries. 

What types of EV batteries are there and how do they work?

As EV battery technology continues to evolve and improve, there are four types of battery available: 

Lithium-ion batteries

  • The most common type of EV batteries, primarily used in all-electric vehicles (AEVs) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs). 
  • With a high power-to-weight ratio, high energy efficiency and good high-temperature performance, these EV batteries carry a lot of energy for their weight. This is an important consideration for fleets who want to go further on a single charge. 

Nickel-metal hydride batteries

  • Typically used in hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs), which depend on fuel rather than electric charging to power the battery. 
  • Longer life cycle than lead-acid batteries while also being safe and abuse tolerant. 
  • High cost, high self-discharge rate and the significant heat these batteries generate in high temperatures mean they are less effective for rechargeable EVs. 

Lead-acid batteries

  • Rarely used alone in EVs, these batteries are generally used to supplement other battery loads
  • Inexpensive, high-powered, safe and reliable, but their short lifespan and poor performance in cold temperatures make them difficult to use in EVs.

Ultracapacitors

  • These are not batteries in the traditional sense. However, they are useful as secondary storage devices in EVs as they help electrochemical batteries level their load.
  • Ultracapacitors can also provide EVs with additional power during acceleration and hill climbing and help recover braking energy. 

But newer EV battery types could become widely available soon. Last year, Tesla made the lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) battery the standard battery for its vehicles. Researchers from the OEM are also working with Dalhousie University in Halifax to develop a new nickel-based EV battery that could last for 100 years in optimal conditions

What do EV batteries offer in terms of range?

One concern many drivers and fleet managers have about EV batteries is range. Could making the switch to an EV reduce a driver’s ability to go about their daily tasks? Thankfully, the answer is a resounding no. The vast majority of electric trucks on the market have EV batteries that support 250-300 km of travel on a single charge, with some options offering over 500 km. 

Research shows that over 60% of medium- and heavy-duty electric vehicles have ranges that exceed daily use by 50%. Meanwhile, the impact of cold temperatures reduces range by only 20%, so electric trucks still have capacity to meet their average day-to-day range. 

Other factors that positively affect EV battery range include:

  • The fact that EV charging usually takes place overnight, saving drivers time on the road
  • The thousands of EV charging stations, including DC fast chargers, that are available across Canada—and many more EV charging stations are on the way thanks to government incentives
  • Good driving habits, such as effective braking, which can increase an electric truck’s range

How long do EV batteries last?

The lifespan of any EV battery depends on the type of battery used and how well it’s taken care of. However, EV batteries on the market today should come with an eight-year warranty and could last even longer than that. 

Extending the life of EV batteries in your fleet is surprisingly simple with a few minor adjustments, such as avoiding charging an EV past 80% and not letting the EV fully discharge. 

Availability of EV batteries: Are there enough to go around?

There are concerns about the availability of EV batteries and the raw materials required to make them—namely, nickel, lithium and cobalt. However, EV battery manufacturing is set to expand massively in the near future.

In Canada, the government has invested significantly in mining and the metals sector to ramp up the availability of materials needed for EVs and EV batteries. The private sector is also playing its part in boosting manufacturing. This year, two major manufacturing facilities have been announced in Windsor and Quebec. Similar trends are being seen in the U.S., where the number of EV battery megafactories is set to increase from six to 18 by 2030. 

In the interim, EV battery recycling has a key role to play, which we’ll explain next. 

Should I worry about waste associated with EV batteries?

Although there are worries about the amount of water used to recycle EV batteries, numerous essential components of the batteries can be recovered and reused. In fact, recycling EV batteries could help supply up to 30% of nickel and 80% of cobalt usage in EVs by the end of the decade – helping to reduce our reliance on mining these raw materials. 

Lithion Recycling, a Quebec-based lithium-ion battery recycling company, can extract numerous key materials from old EV batteries such as lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite, manganese, copper, aluminum, iron, and much more. These can then be used by manufacturers to build new batteries.

“The shredding technology that Lithion Recycling uses is a wet shredding process,” explains Jean-Christophe Lambert, Director Growth and Business Development at Lithion Recycling. “Today, that process allows us to recover 98% of the black mass you have in a battery. So, it’s a very efficient process for metal extraction.”

The company’s vision recognizes the long-term potential for EV battery recycling in reducing the need for mining and for making EV supply chains more localized.

“Recycling is a great tool for that as you don’t need the resource to be based in a specific location. You can just use the battery in what we call ‘urban mining’. Essentially, an old EV battery becomes a mine.”

The future of EV battery recycling could look even better – and more sustainable – by 2030. That year, the U.S. is projected to have more than 218,000 tonnes of EV battery manufacturing scrap and 313,000 tonnes of end-of-life EV batteries per year, an incredible wealth of material waiting to be used again. 

And, when old batteries can no longer be used in vehicles, they can be put to good use elsewhere. One study revealed that old EV batteries could be used for another 10 years as backup storage for grid-scale solar power setups. This helps to avoid battery waste while helping to offset diesel generator use.  

Finally, EV batteries start offsetting their carbon footprint as soon as they start driving. For example, Renault states that CO2 emissions created during EV battery production are offset after the first four months of the life of its E-Tech D trucks. 

What about EV charging stations?

When making the switch to trucks that run on EV batteries, preparing to install EV charging stations can involve quite a bit of research. There is plenty of good news though. In Canada, government incentives are available to support fleet owners wishing to install EV charging stations. And, once EV charging stations are installed, charging an EV battery couldn’t be easier!

By using a charger with the right specs for your fleet and keeping smart charging tips in mind, electric trucks in your fleet will be ready to hit the road and meet operational needs easily every day. 

One of the most popular options for EV fleet charging stations are Level 3 DC fast charging stations, ranging from 24 kW to 300 kW. This powerful technology can allow drivers to recharge 80% of an EV battery in just 30 to 60 minutes. Some EV charging stations also offer dual ports to charge two EVs at the same time. 

In addition, the capacity of public EV charging stations across the U.S. and Canada is improving each day. A study by the U.S. Department of Energy found that 50% of DC fast charging ports exceeded power levels of 50 kW and could supply up to 299 kW.    

A final note on EV batteries

Making the switch to electric trucks—and by extension, EV batteries—can feel like a massive endeavour. In many ways, it’s as much of a leap as the one our great-great grandparents made from horse and cart to combustion engines.  

Thankfully, fleet electrification is becoming increasingly cost-effective, sustainable and easy to navigate—especially when you have a trusted partner on board. 

Interested in finding out the best way to incorporate EV batteries into your fleet? Reach out to 7Gen’s experts today!