This Cozy New Car Feature Offers Extended EV Range and a Warm Embrace

We have learned over the years that while blowing hot air into our cars’ cabins will eventually make them comfortable, things like heated seats and steering wheels are a far quicker way to warm up in the winter. EVs have made these heated surfaces even more important because electric motors don’t generate waste heat, making heaters use battery power, greatly affecting range. There is now a new heated surface that warms EV drivers even more quickly without using much battery power; the ZF Heat Belt. 

ZF heatbelt thermal photo
ZF heatbelt thermal photo | ZF

Heated seatbelts for the win

According to MotorTrend, ZF now offers electrically heated seatbelts that directly warm drivers and passengers across their chests and laps. This not only sounds extremely cozy and even comforting, but ZF says it’s efficient too. 

How much does running the heat affect EV range? 

ZF heated seatbelt cross section
ZF heated seatbelt | ZF

ZF claims using heated seatbelts could improve the cold-weather EV range by up to 15%. Since air can take a while to heat up, traditional EV heaters require a lot of power for extended periods. The ZF heat belts have four heating element wires embedded in the seatbelt webbing. The power comes from the fixed end of the belt, not the retractor end. Supposedly, this added element only slightly increases the belt’s thickness. 

How hot do these heated seatbelts get? 

Obviously, operating temperature matters in a product like this. Since the ZF seatbelts are meant to warm the body, they must be hotter than 98.6 degrees. Like a hot tub, the belts are designed to be between 97-104 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The heated belts require only 70 watts from the car’s 12-volt architecture for a single belt. However, it only uses this much power while initially heating up, which takes far less time than a steering wheel or seat due to the thin belt material. For comparison, MT notes that a standard seat heater might draw as much as 1,000 watts of power at the lowest setting. 

How much power does running your heater in an EV take?

Running the heat in an EV is fundamentally different than in your ICE car. ICE cars use the excess or wasted heat from burning gasoline to pump the cabin full of lovely warm air. This effectually costs you nothing. However, with EVs, there is no wasted heat, meaning heat has to be generated to warm the car. This can be quite costly for the range. On average, EV heaters use 6 kW of battery power. This is an enormous power draw from your EV batteries, resulting in a direct loss of range. 

How much will heated seatbelts cost? 

MotorTrend reports that although ZF has no contracts yet, the company is presenting its wares at CES. The incremental cost is said to be less than half of that of heated seats. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather my car give me a toasty hug than some half-seared booty meat