Technology

The Power of Heat Pumps in Supporting EVs’ Cold Weather Performance

In many areas, the weather is freezing, with deep freezes affecting large sections of the US this week. Similarly, snow and freezing rain have been sweeping across northern Europe. However, these conditions are less than ideal for electric vehicles, which have traditionally not fared well in the cold. Recently, some EVs in Chicago made headlines after the extremely low temperatures caused them to completely run out of battery and require towing.

There are two main reasons why electric vehicles struggle in cold weather. First, lithium-ion batteries, which power electric cars and devices, rely on lithium ions moving from their negatively charged conductors to the positively charged ones. The cold slows down the movement of these ions, making it more difficult to charge a cold battery. Additionally, cold weather causes occupants to use heaters in the car, which draw power from the electric battery, reducing its range. Tests by AAA, Consumer Reports, and the EV battery data company Recurrent have found that freezing temperatures can reduce a vehicle’s range by up to 46 percent.

Heat pumps have become an essential technology in electric vehicles in recent years to combat cold weather issues. Heat pumps transfer heat from outside the car to keep passengers warm without draining the battery. Although heat pumps have improved the performance of EVs in cold weather, they haven’t completely solved the problem. Today, many new electric vehicles come equipped with heat pumps, including Teslas, Jaguar’s I-Pace, BMW’s latest i-series cars, Hyundai’s Ioniq 5, Audi’s e-Tron, and Kia’s new electrified flagship, the EV9.

According to John Kelly, an automotive technology professor at Weber State University, any electric vehicle without a heat pump is outdated. Heat pumps are highly efficient because they extract heat from existing sources instead of creating it. They work similarly to home heat pumps by extracting warmth from outdoor air and pumping it inside. In electric vehicles, heat pumps can even warm the battery, increasing efficiency in cold weather.

In conclusion, heat pumps are a crucial technology that significantly improves electric vehicle performance in cold weather, making them an essential feature for modern EVs.

In conclusion, while the mighty heat pump is proving to be a valuable tool in addressing the cold weather issues facing electric vehicles, it is clear that it is not a complete solution. While it does improve efficiency and range in cold temperatures, it may not always be able to fully combat the impacts of extreme cold on EV performance. However, the advancements and innovations being made in this area are promising and show that continued research and development will help to further mitigate the cold weather problem for electric vehicles in the future.

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