3 Ways That Heat Pumps Improve Electric Vehicle (EV) Performance and Efficiency in Cold Weather

People are embracing EVs quickly because of concerns for the environment, cost benefits, and government incentives. However, there are a few issues that electric vehicle owners experience during cold weather.

During the winter, electric vehicles have difficulty keeping their cabins warm and suffer from decreased range. Fortunately, heat pumps can help you get past this uncomfortable issue.

The advantages of using a heat pump in an electric vehicle

According to TNW, a heat pump is a mechanism that helps circulate the heat inside an electric car. It directs heat away from hot areas of the vehicle that otherwise would have been wasted and into the passenger’s cabin. This eliminates the need for the EV’s battery to run a resistive heater to keep the occupants warm.

Heat pump systems offer several advantages. That is why most EV engineers favor it. Some of the benefits of a heat pump are as follows:

1. Heat pumps enhance EV driving range

Heat pumps don’t necessarily act as range extenders. However, according to TopSpeed, they are considered efficiency builders. This feature allows for lower consumption of the battery to facilitate HVAC purposes. This means you can drive a few more miles using the saved energy. 

Many reasons contribute to the depletion of driving range in harsh climates. To begin with, a vehicle traveling through cold temperatures or chilly air outside experiences more drag. The energy used to heat the battery gets wasted, as is the power used to heat the passenger cabin. Therefore, EVs require a system for handling heating tasks.

Electric resistance heat pumps are 100% efficient. However, they convert all the energy they need into heat energy. Heat pump systems take this to a whole new level. According to Inside EVs, heat pumps can generate thermal energy of up to 3 kW for every 1 kW of electric energy, leading to a 300% efficiency rate. Therefore, a heat pump offers a better overall EV range because it consumes less power to heat the passenger cabin.

2. Improved charging time

A Tesla EV with a heat pump covered in winter snow in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
A Tesla EV covered in winter snow | Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Heat pumps offer faster recharging time by preconditioning the battery to the ideal temperature for recharge. Green Car Reports indicates that the system is built around a heat pump of automotive quality, which collects and recovers wasted heat. The heat pump system in GM electric cars uses a compressor-and-evaporator system with a specifically designed refrigerant. 

This allows it to run through a phase change similar to those used by other automakers. The physical reaction yields benefits by releasing energy as it transitions from gas to liquid, effectively amplifying any energy it could recover along the journey. 

This results in quicker recharging. A heat pump also allows EV engineers to optimize and downsize the design and operation of other thermal-management components.

3. Faster and more efficient heater usage

Related Does Heat Affect Electric Vehicles in the Same Way as Cold Weather?

Does Heat Affect Electric Vehicles in the Same Way as Cold Weather?

During winter, the passenger cabin gets cold quickly, making passengers uncomfortable. Heat pump technology can generate warm air in seconds, providing an instant heat boost. Even better, a timer or an app can help defrost and warm up your vehicle without leaving your home. Your electric car will be able to defrost itself as you enjoy your breakfast.

The heat pump features an energy recovery technology that improves thermal management across the entire vehicle. The system takes in “low-quality” heat energy from various propulsion-related parts, ambient air, and the passenger cabin.

The low-quality heat energy is then transferred “to a higher temperature” for higher-quality usage through a phase change process. This is made possible by the heat pump system and a complex set of valves. This heat-pump energy-recovery system substitutes the traditional air conditioning system, often separated from the EV’s heating system.