There are two types of electricity, alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC). When batteries discharge they emit a constant DC power in one direction, supplying electricity through the positive terminal to the negative. Most automotive components require this DC charge to work properly, but it is limited because batteries will eventually discharge completely, with no remaining power to give.
To address this problem, cars also have alternators. Alternators are actually small generators capable of turning mechanical into electrical energy. Driven by the engine belt, alternators use a small signal from the battery to energize a field current that turns a rotor inside a set of stators. Since this energy is driven by the polarity of magnetic fields, the current produced as a result changes direction as the rotor turns, producing current in opposite or alternating directions (hence AC). Alternators produce significantly higher currents than initially supplied by the battery, so they are used to recharge the battery itself and power other electrical components.
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