An automotive battery is a rechargeable battery that supplies electric energy to an automobile. Traditionally, this is called an SLI, for starting, lighting, ignition, and its main purpose is to start the engine. Once the engine is running, power for the car is supplied by the alternator. Typically, starting discharges less than three per cent of the battery capacity. SLI batteries are designed to release a high burst of current, measured in amperes, and then be quickly recharged. They are not designed for deep discharge, and a full discharge can reduce the battery’s lifespan.
- As well as starting the engine an SLI battery supplies the extra power necessary when the vehicle’s electrical requirements exceeds the supply from the charging system. It is also a stabilizer, evening out potentially-damaging voltage spikes.
- While the engine is running, most of the power is provided by the alternator, which includes a voltage regulator to keep the output between 13.5 and 14.5 V.
- Modern SLI batteries are lead-acid type and provide 12.6 volts of direct current, nominally 12 V. The battery is actually six cells connected in series.
- Battery electric vehicles are powered by a high-voltage electric vehicle battery, but they usually have an automotive battery as well, so that it can be equipped with standard automotive accessories which are designed to run on 12 V.
A starter (starter motor) is an electric motor, an internal-combustion engine in case of very large engines or other device used for rotating an internal-combustion engine so as to initiate the engine’s operation under its own power.
Internal-combustion engines are feedback systems, which, once started, rely on the inertia from each cycle to initiate the next cycle. In a four-stroke engine, the third stroke releases energy from the fuel, powering the fourth (exhaust) stroke and also the first two (intake, compression) strokes of the next cycle, as well as powering the engine’s external load. To start the first cycle at the beginning of any particular session, the first two strokes must be powered in some other way than from the engine itself. The starter motor is used for this purpose and is not required once the engine starts running and its feedback loop becomes self-sustaining.
Alternators are used in modern automobiles to charge the battery and to power the electrical system when its engine is running.
Until the 1960s, automobiles used DC dynamo generators with commutators. With the availability of affordable silicon diode rectifiers, alternators were used instead. This was encouraged by the increasing electrical power required for cars in this period, with increasing loads from larger headlamps, electric wipers, heated rear windows and other accessories.