An accurate thermal model to predict the heat generation in rechargeable batteries is an essential tool for advanced thermal management in high power applications, such as electric vehicles. For such applications, the battery materials’ details and cell design are normally not provided. In this work a simple, though accurate, thermal model for batteries has been developed, considering the temperature- and current-dependent overpotential heat generation and State-of-Charge dependent entropy contributions. High power rechargeable Li-ion (7.5 Ah) batteries have been experimentally investigated and the results are used for model verification. It is shown that the State-of-Charge dependent entropy is a significant heat source and is therefore essential to correctly predict the thermal behavior of Li-ion batteries under a wide variety of operating conditions. An adaptive model is introduced to obtain these entropy values. A temperature-dependent equation for heat transfer to the environment is also taken into account. Good agreement between the simulations and measurements is obtained in all cases. The parameters for both the heat generation and heat transfer processes can be applied to the thermal design of advanced battery packs. The proposed methodology is generic and independent on the cell chemistry and battery design. The parameters for the adaptive model can be determined by performing simple cell potential/current and temperature measurements for a limited number of charge/discharge cycles.