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Modern vehicles batteries are charged by an alternator.

Unlike generators that produce DC voltage, alternators produce AC voltage (Alternating Current). In order for this voltage to be usable, it should be first converted to DC (Direct Current).

Alternating Current means voltage is alternating on each wire: +-+-+-+- etc. So, in AC each wire have both, positive and negative.

A car battery can not be charged with alternating current, it must first be transformed to DC current, meaning positive voltage in one wire and negative on the other wire.

Here it is a simple rectifier:



Hope this help you to understand how it works.
 
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