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Alternators charge the car battery and power the electric system when the car engine is running. Car alternators use a set of rectifiers, or diode bridges to convert Alternating Current to Direct Current. To provide direct current with low ripple, automotive alternators have a three-phase winding.
Modern automotive alternators have a built in voltage regulator. The voltage regulator operates by modulating the small field current in order to produce a constant voltage at the stator output. The field current is much smaller than the output current of the alternator; e.g. a 70-amp alternator may need only 2 amps of field current. The field current is supplied to the rotor windings by slip rings and brushes.
Many alternator voltage regulators are today linked to the vehicles on board computer system, and in recent years other factors including air temperature (gained from the mass air flow sensor in many cases) and engine load are considered in adjusting the battery charging voltage supplied by the alternator.