How Do Electric Vehicles Create Heat?

Last Updated on August 26, 2022 by

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The way electric cars generate heat for the passengers is quite different from how gas cars do it. Usually, gas cars re-use the heat from engine exhaust to provide warm air inside.

However, electric cars do not have an engine exhaust to use the same heating mechanics.

This article will teach you how electric cars generate heat for the people inside.

Do Electric Cars Have Heaters and Air Conditioning?

The truth is different electric car brands produce heat through different processes. To understand the exact mechanics it is best to speak to the manufacturer or dealership.

Most electric cars use a conventional AC system to meet their heating and cooling needs.

This system is similar to the AC units found in regular gas cars and uses an electric heater to get the work done.

The electric heater along with other related components will first generate heat. Then, it will distribute the heat throughout the car, keeping you and your family nice and warm.

However, using an electric heater comes at a cost. It uses up your car battery, effecting the overall performance, especially the distance your car can travel.

But there is no need to worry. Some modern electric cars are using advanced technology for cooling and heating which does not drain your car’s battery.

Electric Car Heating System Design

As stated earlier, using an electric heater drains a lot of the car battery. This is especially true when the heating or cooling system starts. Maintaining the temperature is comparatively more battery-friendly.

Car designers are now innovating new coolants and heat pumps which vaporize and condense more quickly.

An example of this is the compressor experiment conducted in China. The experiment involved using a rotary compressor with the right kind of coolant. This is what the setup looks like –

  • There are three heat exchangers in the system. These are inner condenser, outdoor heat exchanger and inner evaporator.
  • HVAC (Heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) model air door and the bypass valve realize the switch between heating and cooling modes.
  • Under high temperature and pressure, refrigerants pass through the inner condenser without exchanging heat.
  • During this process, the inner evaporator and the outer heat exchanger acted as the evaporator and condenser of the whole system.
  • Another example of efficient temperature control in electric cars comes from Nissan Leaf. The car uses a heat-pumping cabin heater instead of the traditional electric heater.
  • The heat pump offers a viable solution to battery drainage problems caused from heating or cooling.
  • To heat the car from inside, the heat pump uses the temperature difference between the outside air and the refrigerant.
  • When the heat pump is turned on, the external capacitor traps heat from the air outside the electric car.
  • Then, the absorbed heat is transferred to the car cabin. This process only uses the consumption pump’s power. Your car battery does not have to bear any extra load.
  • Depending on the temperature you set, this system can cool or heat your car.

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New Test Reveals Electric Cars Are Practically Unusable in Winter

In 2020, the NAF (Norwegian Automobile Federation) conducted a test with 20 electric cars.

The test aimed to assess the charge time and range of popular electric cars in the cold winter season.

To conduct the test, the cars were driven on full charge to the point of exhaustion. Please note that electric cars do not shutdown abruptly. Drivers are given enough warnings when the battery is low.

The following things were discovered from the test –

  • In cold temperatures, electric cars take more time to charge as charging becomes slow.
  • In colder climates, electric cars lose 20 per cent of their total range on average.

There are several reasons for this phenomenon. Some of them are listed below –

  • The chemical reactions inside the car battery slow down due to cold temperature.
  • Since electric cars do not have an engine that produces heat, brands which use an electric heater take power from the car battery, shortening its supply.
  • If the heater is on full blast, the driving range can reduce up to 41 per cent of total battery capacity.
Derek Bruce
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