Why Can’t Electric Cars Have Alternators?

What is it that differentiates between an electric vehicle and a conventional vehicle? Apart from the efficiency, the quiet performance, and the focus on the environment, what else is there?

While there are many differences, one thing worth noting is that, unlike an ICE vehicle, an electric vehicle doesn’t have an alternator.

Electric vehicles have sufficient electrical energy in their power pack, which basically negates the need for an alternator in the first place.

The primary job of an alternator is to convert the excess rotational energy into electrical energy that charges the battery. This is basically what ensures the battery doesn’t die too quickly.

If you have problems with your alternator, you know what a hassle it is to get your car started in the morning or after prolonged periods of no use.

Because electric cars don’t have too much waste rotational energy, they don’t need an alternator.

Read: Do Electric Car Batteries Use Magnets? Let’s Find Out

What Is an Alternator?

An alternator is a piece of machinery used to convert mechanical energy into electrical energy.

From a morphological viewpoint, an alternator is a wired coil, packed within a magnetic body. Moreover, the build of an alternator is similar to that of an electric engine.

In electric vehicles, the motor converts electrical energy into mechanical energy. It achieves that by creating a magnetic field inside the coil that is placed within a magnet.

This magnetic field between the coil and the magnetic casing makes the coil revolve, which gives birth to rotational energy.

On the flip side, in an ICE vehicle, the electrical coil is rotated by the engine’s rotation, thus creating a magnetic field. As a result, electricity is produced as the output of your car’s alternator.

The alternator produces the AC electric energy, which is then converted into DC energy. This happens due to the presence of the diode bridge.

However, the car may still need some extra energy. This energy comes from the 12V battery. This battery is charged by the alternator if the engine is running.

Electric cars have no alternatives

Why Do Vehicles Have Alternators

As discussed above, the 12-watt battery doesn’t provide sufficient power.

Therefore, an alternator is needed, and in the absence of an alternator, the 12-V battery doesn’t charge on its own, and you will have to charge the engine battery manually.

Furthermore, an alternator doesn’t only power your vehicle. It also ensures that other functions of your car aren’t overlooked.

Lights and electric windows are two components of a vehicle that need an alternator.

Moreover, an alternator also tends to charge the 12V battery, especially when the engine is running.

Lastly, an alternator ensures a smooth and stable flow of electrical energy to the ancillary functions of your vehicle from the 12V battery.

Why Don’t Electric Cars Have an Alternator?

The most straightforward answer to this question is that electric cars don’t have an engine that would enable them to produce alternating current.

On the flip side, electric vehicles are equipped with DC to DC converters. Interestingly, these converters are better than alternators.

If you know a little about ICE vehicles, you will know that the energy powering your alternator comes from the energy that is born from the combustion of the fossil fuel engine.

The whole purpose of an electric vehicle is to prevent fossil fuel burning, thus keeping the environment safe. Therefore, they come with a rechargeable engine that powers the motor.

The DC to DC converters in electric vehicles change the direct current generated from one voltage to the next.

Furthermore, unlike an alternator, a DC to DC converter is light and compact, so it doesn’t add to the weight of an electric car.

Also, these converters are affordable and low on maintenance, so they help you save a lot of money.

Lastly, unlike alternators, DC to DC converters are efficient, and they have a reduced amount of lost energy.

Can You Install an Alternator in an Electric Vehicle?

No, you cannot put an alternator in an EV. First of all, it would be an impractical addition to the machine, considering the number of inefficiencies it brings with it.

As discussed earlier, an alternator depends on electrical or rotational energy to produce electricity.

In an electric vehicle, there isn’t too much rotational energy. The only part that provides the most amount of rotational energy is the axle.

All of this energy is used to push the car forward. Installing an alternator into an EV would compromise this rotational energy, thus slowing the car down.

Moreover, we have already discussed the sheer amount of electrical energy packed within an EV’s power pack.

Therefore, the alternator is a defunct piece of technology for electric cars. The DC to DC inverter possesses the ability to ensure a change in voltage that is needed from the battery.

This means the various components of the car that the battery would usually need an alternator for get their power from the DC to DC converters.

Read: Should You Put a Cover on Your Electric Car? [3 Prime Points]

Can You Run an Electric Motor Using an Alternator?

Simply put, an alternator cannot run an electric motor. As we have already discussed, an alternator needs an energy source to function.

Without a battery or a combustion engine, you cannot run an electric motor with an alternator. However, there is a downside to powering your alternator with a battery.

If you use a battery to power an alternator, it will generate less power than there is in the battery.

If you don’t plan to use the combustion engine or fossil fuel to power your alternator, you should resort to a DC/DC converter.

Do Tesla Vehicles Have an Alternator?

No, Tesla vehicles do not come with an alternator. Tesla set the standard for modern electric vehicles, and as such, these cars use a DC/DC converter instead of an alternator.

The converter in a Tesla takes high voltage current from the main battery pack and transforms it into low voltage current, which is sufficient for charging the 12V battery and other elements like the radio and the lights.

Can a Tesla Charge While You Are Driving?

One common misconception about Tesla is that it charges while you drive. That isn’t always the case. A Tesla in the USA can charge itself during a drive only when the regenerative braking system is activated.

If you don’t know what the regenerative braking system is, it is a technology that saves energy by adding it back to the main battery every time you hit the brakes.

It might not seem like a big deal, but braking takes up a lot of energy. The regenerative braking system saves that energy, and converts and reuses it to charge the vehicle.

The regenerative braking system is common in most electric cars. The results of the regenerative braking system in electric cars and hybrid vehicles in the USA are incredibly prominent.

The brake regeneration process will continue to recharge your battery pack, giving you some much-needed peace of mind, especially if you’re someone who deals with constant range anxiety.

Alternator in an electric vehicle

How Does the Regenerative Braking System Work?

The electric motor in a Tesla works in two ways. First of all, it drives the wheels and moves the vehicle back and forth. Secondly, it is responsible for recharging the battery in your Tesla.

All you have to do is to remove your foot from the accelerator and apply the brakes.

The electric motor’s direction also shifts the moment this shift takes place. As a result, it starts pumping energy back into your battery.

The moment the mechanism engages, you will feel your car slowing down. The good thing about Tesla is that the regenerative braking system is extremely smooth.

Therefore, you don’t necessarily feel the sensation. This is not the case with other electric vehicles.

This disparity also depends upon the different manufacturers in the US and the approaches they have regarding the amount of regenerative braking that is permissible upon activation.

Regardless of what model you own, you have the option to customize your regenerative braking system, depending upon your personal preference.

If you want your car to save each and every bit of energy, you can set your regenerative braking system to the highest setting.

In that setting, you will feel the strongest sensation when you brake. If you prefer a more balanced approach, you can keep the settings somewhere in the middle.

If you have the option to charge your vehicle at home, you can even turn the system off entirely. So, how do you know the regenerative braking system is engaged?

If you see brake lights illuminating every time the car slows down, it is a sign that the regenerative system is engaged.

Moreover, if you have activated the cruise control system with the regenerative braking system, you will see the brake lights, even if you don’t have your foot on the brakes.

The regenerative braking system also uses sensors to monitor the speed of the person driving in front of you. As a result, it slows down the speed of your car, which helps prevent accidents.

Read: Are Electric Car Batteries Bad for the Environment?

Does a Hybrid Car Have an Alternator?

Like electric vehicles, hybrid vehicles also don’t have alternators. Instead, they have various generators and motors that produce the voltage required to power the vehicle.

Interestingly, these cars are called hybrid cars because they possess a combination of DC/DC converter and M/Gs (motors and generators). The special combo is known as the planetary gear system.

Furthermore, a hybrid car has two different types of batteries. First up is the main battery, and then there is a 12V battery.

The main battery in a hybrid vehicle has a capacity of 288V. Some hybrid models have a voltage booster. As a result, the voltage of the main battery can soar to 500V.

The motors and generators in a hybrid vehicle take power from the main battery pack to power the 12V auxiliary battery. And it just doesn’t end there.

The power taken from the main battery also ensures that other components of your hybrid vehicle remain charged safely and don’t sustain damage from voltage spikes.

If you look at the appearance of your M/Gs, they appear similar to the alternators in ICE vehicles. Such M/Gs are commonly seen in the hybrids manufactured by General Motors.

However, they are nothing like the alternators in a conventional vehicle. These M/Gs convert voltage quietly and without any movement.

So, the next time you realize your 12V auxiliary battery isn’t charged, don’t go looking for the alternator. Instead, you need to check the planetary gear system.

Pay special attention to the DC/DC converter. When your vehicle has issues with battery charging, it is usually because the converter is malfunctioning, so it is important to have it professionally inspected.

Importance of alternator in electric car

Differences Between Alternators and DC/DC Converters

 DC/DC ConverterAlternator
LifespanAlmost 30 yearsApproximately 10 years
Moving partsNo moving partsPulleys, bearings, belts

Final Word

After reading this article, you know why EVs don’t have an alternator and why they have a DC/DC converter instead.

The DC/DC converter is a far more advanced technology compared to the old-school alternator. It is also super efficient compared to an alternator and doesn’t need engine power to function.

As a result, less energy is lost in the conversion process. Also, it is lighter and more affordable than an alternator and doesn’t need any expensive battery to do its job.

Moreover, the DC/DC converter has a simplified design and doesn’t need too much maintenance. This saves time and money.

Probably the best thing about electric cars is the regenerative braking system that we have discussed extensively in the above paragraphs. This system enhances efficiency and saves brakes from a lot of wear and tear.

With so much going for electric vehicles, it’s easy to see why they ditched components that used to be a mainstay of traditional combustion engine vehicles.

The alternator has a major part to play in ICE vehicles, but as the world moves toward electric vehicles, its use is slowly disappearing.

Old technology comes with its fair share of inefficiencies, and the alternator is no different. Now, with DC to DC converters, there’s more room to improve engine efficiency to save on costs and maintenance.

Click here: