Comparing Heating Effectiveness: Tesla Model 3, Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf

NOV 12 2018 BY WADE MALONE 137

Is it hot in here or is it just my EV?

It’s that time of year again. Winter is coming. The temperatures are dropping, and so is the range estimate on your electric car. So for those looking to purchase a new plug-in in the coming months, YouTube channel The Electric Israeli has provided us with his experience owning three of the most popular plug-in vehicles on the market. It might help you decide if the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, or Tesla Model 3 is the best option for you.

The first gen Nissan Leaf has an immediate edge thanks to its available heat pump. The car is able to rapidly heat the cabin and sustain that temperature. Compared to his previous non-EV vehicles, he calls the speed of the Leaf’s heating “mind-boggling.” The only major criticism with the Leaf is the steering wheel. It gets too hot! To the point where he has to toggle it on and off while driving.

The Chevy Volt takes longer to heat the cabin than the Leaf. The plug-in hybrid has difficulty evenly sustaining that temperature for long periods of time. Running the heater takes a significant chunk out of range as well. A 30%+ drop in electric range is not uncommon, but with a backup engine range is not as much of a concern. Of course, the Volt has some positives for winter performance. The heated seats and steering wheel work incredibly well, with more options than the Leaf.

The Tesla Model 3 sits in-between as far as winter options go. For cabin heat, the Model 3 does not warm up as quickly as the Volt or the Leaf. But it does sustain the temperature well. The heated seats are great, with multiple temperatures similar to the Volt. However, the Model 3 inexplicably does not have a heated steering wheel.

This is The Electric Israeli’s first year with a Model 3. His channel will be performing range tests this winter to measure how efficiently the newest Tesla heats the cabin compared to the Volt and Leaf.

This is just one owner experience, however. How does your electric vehicle fare in the winter months? Let us know in the comment section below.

Categories: Chevrolet, Comparison, Nissan, Tesla

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137 Comments on "Comparing Heating Effectiveness: Tesla Model 3, Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf"

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The Volt shouldn’t be compared here since Volt has a “Gigantic” heater called gasoline engine built in. Volt’s electric only heating is 6.6kW. But with Hold mode, it can turn on the gasoline heater right of way as needed (that engine is more efficient as a heater than a propulsion device).

I think the comparison is fine – these are all vehicles that would be cross-shopped by someone wanting to get into the BEV or PHEV scene.

Not true. I was dead set against having anything with gas engine since I have plenty of them already for hauling and very long trips.

People don’t cross shop vehicles such as Volts and Model 3s. People tend to cross shop vehicles in the same class, so it was always pushing things when people claimed that the Bolt and Model 3 were competing. The rationale was that they were EVs with similar prices and range. The problem was that one is a compact crossover and the other is a midsize luxury sedan.

With the Bolt, you can’t even claim that they compete on price and range. And if using the ICE is required then it’s not even a BEV comparison.

If you admit that ICE vehicles use spark plugs, then all cars are powered by electricity since it’s the combustion and not the fuel that moves them. So we are back to comparing all cars. That’s when people go back to looking at how much they want to spend and look at what vehicles of a certain type are in that price range. That means that these are not vehicles that people cross shop.

Right! Why compare it to the Volt instead of the Bolt?!?!

Because he owns a Volt and not a Bolt. He is simply comparing them with his personal experiences. 🙂

As far as my Bolt is concerned, I find it heats up very quickly compared to my wifes gen 1 Volt. The heated steering wheel and seats are great. My only annoyance with the Bolt climate control is the single heat/ac button. I have had the a/c come on if the temp in the car goes too high, and vice versa.

But that has been changed in the 2019 model, and is only a minor annoyance.

Do Not Read Between The Lines

They said they’d beefed up the heater.
Our 2013 Volt is ok for heating as long as you don’t need defrost. Which you do. Then it’s poor at highway speed.

Exactly – it should have been the Bolt EV and not the Volt.

Kudos to “Jimmy” for including one of the longer EV range PHEVs in his comparison!

There is waaaaaaay too much “EV purity” expressed in comments here. Thank goodness InsideEVs covers all PEVs (Plug-in EVs), not just BEVs or just PHEVs!

This is one of the reasons I think plug-in hybrids may be more environmentally friendly than pure BEVs.

Resistive heating is an awfully inefficient way to heat your vehicle compared to simply burning gasoline or whatever. Think about the power plant thermal efficiency (best case CNG ~55%) multiplied by transmission efficiency (~90%) by battery charging/discharging efficiency (~80%) by heater efficiency (~95%) – the overall efficiency comes up to 38%, and this is best case. So you would burn >2.5 times more fossil fuels to heat your car with electricity than you would if you simply used the waste heat from the gasoline engine (if you had one).

Add to that other issues with pure BEVs – like the added weight or the tendency to resort to gas cars on long trips and in the end of the day they may end up consuming more FFs than PHEVs.

Funny – I thought resistive heating is 100% efficient. It is.
You should be careful using words that you don’t know the meaning of.
My 2 cars – Leaf and Model S both have resistive heating and both have supplemental heating methods. The Leaf has a heat pump and the Model S can use waste heat from the drivetrain.
Even in bad case scenarios, heating the cabin in not that bad. I would say that it never makes it worth burning gasoline.
The best case for electricity generation is solar, hydro, wind and nuclear – those energy sources where zero FF are being used. I am quite sure that each year more of my EV miles come from those sources than the prior year. So when you say best case, it is not CNG. My best case is when I park at home during the day and even transmission losses are close to zero from my PVs.

“Funny – I thought resistive heating is 100% efficient. It is.” Nothing is 100% efficient. There are losses in intermediate power electronics, even to get the power from battery to the resistors takes some hit. 95% is probably in the ballpark. “The best case for electricity generation is solar, hydro, wind and nuclear – those energy sources where zero FF are being used.” Unfortunately this best case is many decades away if ever. The sources you listed account to about 36% of the mix, ~19% is nuclear, ~7% hydro, ~6% wind, ~2% solar and ~2% other renewable). The rest is about equal parts (32% each) natural gas and coal. I chose natural gas because it’s emissions are representative for about the average (NG has two times less emissions of coal per kWh, the rest is close to 0 emissions, so it’s about evening it out). From the clean sources nuclear and hydro are stagnant. Wind is the fastest growing but it took it 15 years to get from 0 to 6%. So it will take many times the lifetime of your car for the clean sources to get to 50, maybe even 45% of the mix. Not to mention that… Read more »

Are you familiar with the concept of exponential growth? There is a good chance that cars bought today will run on almost 100% renewables before they retire.

The grid gets cleaner over time… 6 years ago when I first had our Plus in prius our local grid in Newfoundland , Canada was a mix of renewable ( hydro + wind ) and 30 percent diesel . In 2020 when most of the diesel is retired and replaced with renewable power our grid will be 97 percent clean power and our Leaf will live up to zero emissions logo

antrik, unlimited exponential growth is wishful thinking for just about anything. In reality high growth rates (which to some appear ‘exponential’) are easy to achieve when you start off a small base, bit over time they tend to taper, until they hit some limits and growth stalls.

For example for renewables the limits have been largely grid related and practice is showing is hard to get them past 20% of penetration (not impossible but hard – read expensive). In US with its large territory and lack of integrated national grid I suspect this limit would be even lower.

Bottom line – I think we’ll be lucky to get to even 50% clean grid in the next 2-3 decades. These processes take many years to happen and the inconsistency of government policies is not helping.

It’s not hard to get past 20% — especially now that batteries are increasingly affordable. The reason penetration stalled around this level for example in Germany is that corrupt politicians want to protect coal interests, and thus changed regulations to stifle renewables growth.

Of course exponential growth is not unlimited: at some point, the S-curve obviously flattens out as it begins approaching 100%. But up to about 50% or more, growth is often indeed more or less exponential — there are lots and lots of historical examples for that.

Neither solar nor hydro nor nuclear is likely to be used for extra power peak in cold morning, when electricity market prices skyrocket in the North, and people want more heat.

Hydro and nuclear would be already at 100% without somebody’s car heater. The realistic option is natural gas or even diesel peaker generator.

The realistic option in the next couple of years will increasingly be batteries charged from renewables overnight.

Here’s a real pilot, in Boothbay, ME, where 2MW of peak will come from locally sited diesel, PV and .5MW of batteries. Fortunately, the tourist town doesn’t peak when its cold.

These installs are a new thing, for the CONUS, where our islands have been the big battery customers, so far.

As for efficiency of electric heaters… You know what happens to electricity that gets “lost”? Yeah, it gets transformed into heat. So unless the electricity that gets “lost” in power electronics etc. escapes somewhere, it is indeed used 100% for heating.

(AFAIK EVs generally connect all major power electronics to the liquid cooling loop, and can dump that heat into the cabin as needed — which means it’s indeed pretty much 100% efficient.)

But resistive heaters are not optimal of course. Heat pumps typically reach way more than 100% efficiency… Enough that even when fed from grid electricity, they will likely cause less emissions for the same amount of heat from average grid electricity than heating directly with fossils.

Last but not least, engine heating is nowhere near 100% efficient either — a lot of the heat escapes through the exhaust etc.

Antri, power lost in electronics outside of passenger cabin is not going to end up heating your b*tt so by all accounts is wasted.

But if you insist that much let’s assume a 100% heater efficiency, this will change the overall efficiency (power plant fuel to heat received) from 38 to 40%. Feeling better about it?

In comparison the combustion heat requires no additional fuel at all – this fuel would be spent anyway to drive the engine or charge the battery, what is being utilized is just the heat that was otherwise dissipated in the environment.

The fact that combustion cars recover *some* of the waste heat for cabin heating doesn’t change the fact that they still waste a lot of energy; while EV using the (small) power train losses plus additional electric heating use virtually *all* the energy for propulsion and cabin heating.

Efficiency of using steering wheel heat, instead of cranking cabin heat, was indeed big oversight for Model 3. Among a plurality of us northerners, it is fundamental to better managing the finite watts a BEV carries around. A popular option for all cars, as well.

Before talking about percents, you need to decide percents of what do you want to discuss. It is close to 100% of electric energy at heat strip input, but it is much less percents of electric energy at charger plug. Some 80% charger * 90 % battery charge/discharge and you at around 72%.

If you are comparing with ICE, more likely equivalent scenario is to
compare with power plant turbine where similar fossil fuel is burned. You have 30-40% real life plant efficiency (as it needs scale up and down and it is not that theoretical record turbine producers advertise), 90% efficient grid (ignoring maintenance and balancing losses), and you have: 80% charger * 90 % * 40% * 90% = 26%. An ICE or just burner that burns the same fossil fuel where the heat is needed wins hands down over electric resistance heater.

You need really good heat pump to come at least close to ICE as heat source efficiency for maintaining constant temperature. Even then, it needs help from resistance heater for instant raise of temperature or at very low temperature when heat pump output power drops but heat demand increases.

Driving a Leaf for the last 3 years in Newfoundland , Canada … I agreed that the Leaf has a fast wam up … 15 to 32F ( -10 to 0 C ) the back up resistance heater will draw 3 to 4 kw for the first 5 minutes and then it will settle to around a 1kw draw indicating Heat pump only… very toasty and efficient heater

In the near-term, there may be a place for combustion heat in EVs. For example, an electric city bus in Winnipeg will use a bit more traction battery to drive than a similar bus in Austin. But if it is too cold to use a heat-pump 10% of the year, then you may need to triple the traction battery size, just to provide heat for one to two months of the year (if you’ve been on a city bus at -20C, then you know how hard the heaters are blasting). If you used heat-pump plus backup propane heat (instead of inductive heat), and if that allowed you to convert three times as many buses to electric, then that’s “a win.”

This is a real challenge as we start to migrate school and city buses to electric. The only alternative I can think of for massively over-provisioning batteries, or using combustion heat, is to add 5cm of insulation, and move to insulated windows with smaller proportions (more like airplane windows).

That’s my point – using the battery for heating is plain stupid, plus the decrease in range is a very big problem for BEVs (less for PHEVs). I think if they used a cheap propane heater to do it would be much better, the only reason it’s not happening is maybe it will interfere with the “high-tech” image of those cars.

I heard it does happen sometimes in Norway as aftermarket “solution”, though not necessary propane 😉

Really old good tech diesel heater is what is used in buses and trucks and it just works:

Triple the battery size? I doubt that.

Daimler for example acknowledges that it’s a challenge, but claims they have a pretty good grip on it in their BEV buses, and don’t need an external heater in any but the most extreme of climates…

Buses – Ideally they would have plenty of body heat and they would be pre heated. Also, they should be filled with people wearing jackets and thus don’t have to be that warm. I don’t think small windows are really necessary but it would help. Just a few cm of foam would probably do the trick.
Let’s face it, generally people should be moving to more temperate climates.
Three times is a gross exaggeration – obviously insulation would fix most of that. It was just that it wasn’t needed when there was so much wasted heat.

Think of it in terms of scale. The Volt can toast its cabin with <.1 gallon of gas. That isn't a purist solution, but in context with pricing lots more battery, or fundamentally changing traction motor, it may be the best stop-gap solution that affords more electric buses.

In general, people get too hung up on the impact of "peaks", and don't see the forest of changing the impact of what is more constant.

With any sort of efficiency calculation, you have to define the scope of where you start measuring losses. Sounds like you are starting at the gas pump for the fossil fuel case, but start at the power plant running on fossil fuels when looking at EVs. Gasoline doesn’t just come out of pumps. What about all the processes which lead to making the gasoline? I mean, you have to pull oil out of the ground, transport it, refine it, transport it again, fight some wars around the world to maintain a “stable” market, some government subsidies to prop up the bankrupt fracking industry, lots of public healthcare dollars caused by pollution, global warming disaster relief, etc. On the other hand, power generation is becoming more renewable every year. Waste heat from a gasoline engine doesn’t have much wiggle room for efficiency improvements and when you aren’t using it, it is 100% wasted energy that could be going towards transport. Like others have pointed out, resistive heating itself is close to 100% efficient. If you are sourcing the energy from your own solar panels, than the efficiency is that you turned 100% of the energy needed to drive and heat your… Read more »

It is exactly the same for power plant running on fossil fuels, don’t you think? You need either mine coal with all consequences, or frack for methane gas and deal with methane leaks that make overall GHG effect close to coal. Then transport it to power plant, often across the ocean. Dependence on natural gas has political consequences as well, as you can see in divided Europe now, on hook by Gazprom pipelines, and so funding rockets aimed back at them.

As for the grid getting cleaner, it may get much cleaner in selected parts of the world, but overall it is wishful thinking. Share of energy produced by fossil fuels didn’t changed significantly in the last 20 years. Nope, it didn’t.

That isn’t a reference so it becomes a single person’s statement. A person who is not without an agenda. Doesn’t mean it is incorrect but I just don’t think you should use it as a reference.
The grid is both clean and getting cleaner in most areas that have the most EVs. CA and Norway are good examples. The point certainly is well taken that you need both things.

NG is rarely transported across the ocean. Even coal is probably a low percentage. Here is the good old US, all of our electricity generation is by domestic fuels and as such is not transported across the ocean. When we discuss driving an EV, it is a little unfair for us to extrapolate to the German or Japanese debacle of increasing FF importing to generate electricity. The cleanliness of the grid in Germany has very little relevance for EVs and it certainly has no issue with my US driven EV.

California and especially Norway is tiny part of the world. Norway at least has hydro in addition to interconnects and oil money, CA only has interconnects and relies of fossil fuel backed grid from other states to provide dispatchable grid power, whatever paper games they play to buy from this or that generator.

The whole US is small fraction of world population, 0.3 billion vs 8 billion, while the atmosphere is the same.

Looking from worldwide perspective CA is equivalent of affluent gated neighborhood declaring it is 100% green & sustainable because it only has rooftop PV generators, no manufacturing, and who cares about that underground power line out of sight and out of mind /s

NG is transported over the ocean all the time, much of Asia is supplied by sea. Some 300 million tons per year.

David, you are picking on nits. His point is correct – any energy source (NG, coal, wind, solar etc,) requires some a processing and transportation which require energy inputs of their own. So the net energy they provide is never 100% the original, more like in the 90-ties. Google EROEI

This article is misleading and wrong…The Volt has a Heat Pump plus resistance heat… and it can be easily preheated with phone app…. and it has a range extender engine which means NO range anxiety… and no performance loss. I live in a cold climate (-14 for several days last year) and have had no problems… the heater also has several settings for comfort.

For being such expensive vehicles it’s astounding Tesla doesn’t pack heat pumps. Needs to be implemented – Now

Tesla gave the space to frunk! They don’t need heater in CA. Heat pump is a necessity in cold regions to save battery! Resistor heater eats up too much power!

Not all of California enjoys a coastal climate. Many areas get very cold.

Most people live less than 50 miles to the coast in California. Especially those that can buy Teslas.

No, it does not.

– A heatpump doesn’t work at freezing temperatures. In those temperatures it is just as efficient as a resistance heater.
– A heatpump is more complex, more prone to errors/defects.
– Tesla’s doesn’t need the resistance heater to be on all the time, atleast not at full capacity. As soon as the battery is heated up, that heat is transferred from the battery to the cabin.
– Tesla’s heater is (correct me if I’m wrong) only 2 kW. That isn’t that much and probably isn’t worth the additional effort of a heatpump.

With temperatures at around 8 degrees celcius here in The Netherlands I usually have the ‘Climate’ off in my S100D after a 20 minute drive or so. The cabin is warm enough, I don’t know where it’s coming from. Perhaps the MCU? battery pack? I don’t know. But it’s warm enough so I can drive without climate on and thus without any heating at all. I’m sure it will require some at sub-zero temperatures, but probably not even the whole 2 kW all the time

If it has AC, it kind of already has a heat pump. Just needs to reverse the flow. I wouldn’t think the complexity factor to have a heat pump is that significant because of this, but that’s just an opinion.

To increase heat-pump efficiency, Toyota added vapor injection.

Heat pump also requires a much larger surface area for heat exchange. It also has to have resistive heater as well for defrogging when the system is acting as dehumidifier by operating as A/C and heater as the same time.

The temperatures are different between winter and summer – so this affects miscibility of the refrigerant with the lubricating oil so velocities through the piping need to be maintained – its a bit harder to do than just having a 4-way valve. But the Japanese are the best at the optimizations. Mitsubishi has the best winter heating, but it is a bit mediocre in the hot summer – but that is a compromise I’d gladly take.

I’m surprised you didn’t mention that PHEV’s like the Volts, Prime, or Clarity are the most efficient of all ev products when the engine is cycling since so much otherwise wasted heat is recouped. That makes these vehicles the absolute lowest cost to run, just as long as the engine is running.

“The cabin is warm enough, I don’t know where it’s coming from.”

Tesla has a patent to use waste heat from the motor to heat the battery pack, and there is even some (inconclusive) evidence that this has been implemented in production cars. I have not seen any suggestion that the Model S uses waste heat to warm the cabin, but it seems at least theoretically possible.

AIUI, all the cooling circuits in Tesla vehicles are connected — so I think they can all use excess heat from the drive units (motors/inverters) to heat the battery. The innovation in the Model 3 is that it *only* uses heat from the drive units — generating excess heat on purpose when needed.

Besides not using more heated steering wheels, Tesla’s weak spot is the warm up, when motor heat hasn’t formed and the car works hard to warm both the battery and the cabin. So, for short trip use where the car has been allowed to cool you end up with substantially less net range. A 20 mile actual use ends up consuming 40 miles on the range display, when temps fall beneath 20F.

You have to tell all the heatpump manufacturers that their products don’t work at freezing temperatures. They will be very surprised to hear this since their documentation has them working even below 0 degree F.

It works until the radiator is frost over and then it has to use resistive heater to defrost them and then repeat the cycle again.

Mitsubishi Hyper-Heat systems use Hot Gas. Slightly better than plain resistance heat for a while, but the defrost operation is only temporary.

Yes, and it still works at COP more than 1.
I didn’t head about automotive CO2 heat pumps, but Solaris Bus uses it for their next year model. CO2 refrigerant allows higher temperature range and should work down to -30 C or so, although efficiency still drops with temperature of course.

You produce about 5000 btu. The car produces heat as well.

Wrong, sedentary heat output from an average adult is 300 btu/ hour, or 400 btu/hour doing moderate activity. So, yes, if you fidgit in your car for 12 hours you’ll make around 5000 btu. But the rate of heat is important in a heater.

I used to think so as well.
But after a year with the Leaf im not so sure anymore. (We have truly long and cold winters here in Norway)
Another way to create heat is by using resistance heater and heat from motor, electronics and battery like Tesla do. The drawback is that you need more kwhs in your pack- which also Teslas have..
The benefit is that the Teslas is dead silent compared to the Leaf. It may also require less service and repair?

Jeg blir enige om det, Bjørn. When I bought a Nissan Leaf, I assumed that it would be so cold, that I would need to “get used to” driving the range it could handle with only resistive heat. So I just bought the cheaper Leaf with resistive heat. However, I’ve since learned that the heat-pump operates down to -12C (10F), and sometimes as cold as -15C (5F). While we still have dozens of days colder than that each year, our heating season is more than 6 months long (I saw some team skiers out double-poling on snow along the highway Saturday), and I wish I had spent the extra $2500 for the heat-pump version. I would have longer range for probably 120 extra days each year.

If Tesla chooses to make a heat pump (and heated steering wheel, and all four seats) available, even for $2500 USD, I expect that many customers would buy it in Canada and Norway, and northern US states like Minnesota and North Dakota.

Lack of heated steering wheel is the much more glaring omission.

Yeah, really the only omission that would bother me. There are all sorts of comments about this. I think they just
out-foxed themselves on that one. They just rationalized it away.
Up North, we want heated steering wheels, no, if, ands, or Blunts!

I am not a fan of heated steering wheels. It seems like lots of people are. What is it about heated steering wheels that all of you like why do you feel that they are such a necessity ? Heated seats I find useful because I use them instead of the heater to increase the range of my first generation EV.

As the Model 3 has a PTC heater inside the cabin Tesla actually can not integrate a heat pump. They would have to design a new HVAC. Other cars with heat pumps channel the climate circuits through the HVAC in a way so it can work as a heating device as well. Or they heat the coolant which then heats the cabin. This enables heating of the battery with the heat pump as well.
Model 3 heating is way more simplified. It heats the coolant with the motor and the cabin with the PTC. Simple and effective, but not efficient.

Not efficient?
It’s waste heat and motor and power electronic need to be cooled, so it may has well be redirected to use on purpose.
Even at 95% motor efficiency and about the same from the electronic, driving at 60 miles per hour in winter climate draw about 20 kW of power and .95 x .95 x 20 kW+ 18.05 left, so 1.95 kW of heat generated could be use for good and without draining much more, except the circulating pump and fan.

You gotta use everything that’s available!

EU EV Heating breakthru alert/reminder !!
(Why no mention here ?! link below)

Announced November 1st.
Reduces energy use by 30% – increases range !
Major carmakers are onboard.:
“EU-funded MAXITHERM project has developed an alternative heating system for electric vehicles that reduces energy consumption, increases range and ensures passenger comfort”
“The project is currently working with a number of automotive manufacturers…”
Paul G(EVUK)

I wonder if this tech is the same tech mentioned in the Bolt EV survey a couple of weeks ago that talked about heated mats?

Install aftermarket seat heater pads under your rubber floor mats. Best $50 and two hours I ever spent on our Smart EV.

Interesting. I used to wear heated chaps, heated vest, heated gloves when riding the motorcycle in winter. I’ll have to dig them up since it can get really cold (almost 40F!) around here.

Yes, there is a Leaf owner, either in Fin. or Est. who has a broken heater. He mounted ceramic heat elements 5cm above each dashboard/windscreen heater vent, and also resistive heating pads under the floor mats. He claims it is as comfortable as the car with normal heating, except: it does a better job keeping the windscreen clear, and it uses less energy.

Thanks I’ll pass this along to the team!

Norwegian buyers take notice. Heat pump is necessary on winter months.

In coastal Norway yes, a heat pump is nice but inland where it is much colder it offers very little extra besides noise.

Or they could just give us a few extra kilowatts

Not sure I’d call the Leaf heating mind boggling. Not compared to ice heating at least. We chose the upgraded 2017 based on it having the heat pump, but then heard it was useless below 10C anyway? They fixed the steering wheel heater in 2018 though!

I use the App to condition the car before i leave. My Volt is still plugged into my charger so range is not an issue. Then we mostly use the heated seats. I don’t own the other models so I don’t if this an option for them but I would be surprised if they didn’t have it.

Every EV sold in significant numbers allows preheating the cabin on shore power. They also have heated seats.

The Pacifica Hybrid heats very well without turning on the engine (and remember that it has a tremendous cabin), but gets about 1 mile per kWh in city driving while doing so.

My 2013 C-Max turns on the ICE if it’s below 40 and you go uphill with the heat on. Really inconvenient when I just need the windshield cleared a mile from home.

Yeah, my fusion energi is similar. If I need to clear the windshield, the ice engine kicks on. I could easily make it to work and back on everything but the programming logic doesn’t allow it when it’s below 49 degrees.

If I have heat on and below 40, and use lowest heat my range drops from like 21 down to about 12.

After I posted this I had to take the PacHy a mile downhill in 28 degree weather as a tire picked up a screw, and the ICE kicked on immediately.

My personal guess is that it deems if the defrost is active in favor of safety it is going to try to produce heat and airflow to the windshield ASAP. In Auto this is much sooner going to activate the ICE. Switch to EV Now and it will likely hold off activating the ICE for a little bit longer depending on outside temps. I’ve done this once or twice and while the dash will say the engine is on for performance with the telltale yellow EV icon, it still runs in EV when EV Now mode is active. To be fair though, as Mike mentioned below, using battery for heating is horribly inefficient especially in these lower temps just due to the nature of the resistant heating used especially with a low batter capacity to start with. Compared to last winter I have taken to start planning my day a bit better this season and will tend to go EV Later in the morning when temps are coldest, forcing the ICE on before I even pull out of my garage, and use it the entire way into work. Then during my lunch run and drive home I’ll likely use the… Read more »

My PacHy experience is more like your C-max experience. We use the heated seats and wheel as much as possible in the winter months but there seems to be no way to have the cabin heat on without the ICE running once the weather gets cold enough. Also, no way to preheat the cabin on electricity only while still plugged in.

There is a youtube video for this: “Pacifica Hybrid – How to use heater without engine while charging”. Start (or restart) charging; then (without pressing the brake pedal) push the Start button twice. Then turn-on heat.

Im going to have to try that.

Outlander PHEV has a similar issue – in winter is almost impossible to drive without using gas. Used to drive me mad.

Energi or Hybrid? My 2013 C-Max Energi doesn’t turn on the ICE even at 20F even when going up a steep hill. Of course the Energi is in EV-NOW mode.

Hmmm,…this morning when it was about 32deg F outside, my PacHy kept wanting to run the gas engine until I turned off the rear climate.

I upgraded from a 2016 to 2018 Leaf to get the extra range and that part is working out very well. I only ordered the base model “S” as I really didn’t care for all the Pro-Pilot stuff. Didn’t notice that heating via the heat pump is only available in the SV and SL trims. On cold rainy days when the windows fog I lose more range because of this. Once it gets really cold it doesn’t matter as heat pumps become ineffective.

The steering wheel in my 2016 got really hot. The 2018 sorta warm. Goldilocks wouldn’t be happy! At -30degC my 2016 lost about 40% of it’s best range. I expect the same with the 2018 which should still leave me with around 170km worst case. We’ll be finding out all too soon.

It does give the heat pretty quickly so a frost covered windshield can be softened up and wiped in short order.

Do Not Read Between The Lines

The Leaf heat pump is a relatively warm weather one. Prime and others operate down to lower temperatures, although Prime runs the engine if you use defrost mode. (Original RAV4 EV had 2 heat pumps)

GM has surveyed owners about a winter package for the Bolt. Seemed to push radiant floor heating over heat pump though, so maybe they were just testing whether radiant floor would be a good sucker option for which people would overpay.

I live somewhere that gets proper cold, so for me a heat pump would be more about efficiency and broad winter range, rather than base range. Nice to have in a BEV, but not an essential.

How is the Model 3 in between? It sounds much worse than the Leaf and a little worse than the Volt – no heated steering wheel and slower to warm up, but regulates temp better.

Do Not Read Between The Lines

Read the article. It’s in between because it has better cabin heating than the Volt.

The detail missing in all of this is that, yes, the resistance heaters in Volts are wimpy. But if you arrange things for the engine to run, the heat is GREAT.

This guy has no clue what he’s talking about.

Heat Pumps gather heat outside and dump it inside. As the tempeature drops the less heat gets gathered. In extremely cold conditions (at/around 10°F) you get no heat what so ever.

I’d say that at around 10F (-12C) you drastically start to loose efficiency/output – not that it will be useless at that temperature. For the Leaf for example, the heatpump is useful until 0F (-18C) – it works below that but it wont have any benefit, only noise.

Most heat pumps have an auxiliary heater that accompanies them when this happens so really should not be an issue.

Not from what I’ve read. The ineffectiveness of heat pumps as cabin heaters in really cold weather is a very common complaint. If they had an auxiliary resistance heater to take up the slack, then we shouldn’t see such complaints.

My Leaf has no issues keeping warm.

If the heat pump is powerful enough, there is no “slack” to pick up… Worst case, when the heat pump doesn’t actually pump any external heat, it still produces waste heat, thus effectively working like a resistive heater.

(Downside is that it has to run at more or less full tilt for that, which apparently makes it quite noisy, going by other comments…)

Can’t say for other cars but like David Cary mentions the heat-pump equipped Leaf also has a resistive heater element for backup and it worked for me at -30C (-22F)

How long is too long? A good test would be to measure the inside temp and how long does it take to get to a preset temp preset temperature.

Without data, the article is just a personal opinion.

I do have a Bolt in Canada, and heats properly. The range drop quite a lot, energy usage goes from 15kWh/100km to 22kWh/100km for long range trip. But the most disappointing for me is the slow charging at 22kW, even after driving for 1h and a battery with a low SoC. GM should provide an option to pre-heat the battery for fast charging.

Give me a heated steering wheel!!!

I’ve also owned all 3 of these vehicles. There is a downside to having a heat pump though. You can’t run the heater and AC at the same time. My LEAF was really bad about fogging up inside the car. I had to constantly switch from the heater to AC to pull the moisture out of the cabin. The Model 3 has so much spare range, I consider resistance heating to be a plus in this regard. I live in FL so it doesn’t get that cold, but it sure gets muggy. And for extremely cold weather, a heat pump isn’t very useful, so even vehicles that have heat pumps will end up falling back on resistance heating. Tesla made the right call here.

I have a 2016 and 2018 Kia Soul EV and can run the heat and AC at the same time. I usually run in auto climate mode and once in a while both come on. Selecting defrost when it is cold almost always turns on both AC and heat. The Kia pulls heat from the motor and electronics so the heat pump works at colder temps than many heat pumps do.

Yes, you can run “heat” and AC at the same time, but I don’t think you can run the “heat pump” and AC at the same time, since the compressor is needed for both. This is why even cars with heat pumps need resistive heating to fall back on. I could be wrong, but that’s my understanding.

All heat pumps have resistance heat strips for backup or quick start, it is very cheap addition.
But usually you don’t need humidity control if temperature difference is big enough, as relative humidity is reduced just by temperature increase.

E.g. 100% humidity at 10 C (50 F) is 0.009 kg/m3 absolute.
The same 0.009 kg/m3 absolute becomes 52% at 20 C (68 F), which is feels dry enough.

You may get some borderline cases, and automakers should provide “de-fog” buttons that would turn A/C no matter what. But even in Florida it is usually dry after summer when temperatures drop.

BMW i3 heats up quickly. Seat warmers are incredible, but no heated steering wheel.

Now that it’s cold in Michigan, and we’ve actually got a little snow, I can finally compare my Model 3 to my previous Volt. What I notice is that in the Model 3 is much warmer (almost too warm). This is in regards to pre-heating and driving. Driving in my Volt in the previous 5 winters, I wouldn’t turn much heat on. I didn’t really need/want it and I wanted to conserve the battery. This is pretty much a non-issue with the Model 3 being that the battery is so big. I still have not been able to precisely figure out how much energy my heater is using in the Model 3, even with the new Rev 9 update. Another difference I noticed was that when I preheated my Volt, it always ran the windshield defrost and rear window defrost. I don’t know how to tell my Model 3 to do this. I think only 1 time they were actually on when I got in. This may be an issue as more & more ice builds up on the windows. If anyone knows of a setting, please let me know, but I have not seen one.

My 2012 Leaf’s steering wheel doesn’t get too hot to me. It seems to cool off a bit once it gets warm. I can’t imagine having a car w/o a heated steering wheel in the future.

My wheel on the Leaf get really hot, but it does get warm later on.

It takes me 3 minutes via the Tesla app to heat the Model 3 from 30 degrees to 70 degrees Fahrenheit on the HI setting.

How long does it take for the leaf and the volt?

Same time for the Leaf. With the Volt, the gas engine will come on, even if the car is fully charged.

Volt engine doesn’t come on at 30 degrees anymore if it is set to the lower temperature setting of 15 degree. If it is on 35 degree setting, then the engine will start. There are two settings that own can set.

You must have a real old Volt before 2012?

The Volt can be preheated via phone app. and there are settings that tell it when the engine will start… the engine does not have to come on at 30 degrees… in any Volt. Even at -14F last year I had no problems with heat in the Volt… in fact I’ve had no problems whatsoever in 6 years of owning the Volt…. no range anxiety… brakes are still at 80% after 6 years …50K hard city miles… 7 trips to gas station in six years 57gallons total. I still agree with over 128,000 SAE Automotive engineers from around the world who voted the Chevy Volt as the best engineered car on the road.

Thank you for publishing my video. I have to say that the Leaf, with of its charging issues, has the best heating system of the EVs I drive.

I have a (maybe naive) question here. All these vehicles already feature a heat pump running in the opposite direction a.k.a A/C. What is the technical reason of not reusing it also to heat the vehicle but having to resort to yet another costly component/point of failure/etc.?

I don’t think you can just switch the heat exchangers between evaporation and condensation…

Also, different operating temperature ranges probably play a role?

Resistance heater is not costly component, it is very cheap and is needed with heat pump anyway.

There is minor efficiency drop when designing A/C to run in opposite direction as heat pump, as you need to size evaporator/cooler appropriately. But more important somebody needs to design and test it, and eat associated R&D cost. I doubt if automotive electric A/C / heat pumps where readily available from OEMs few years ago. ICE cars or non-plugin hybrids don’t need it. Toyota designed their own advanced one just for Prime.

I have a Toyota Prius Prime. Heating is only do so and drops the range by at least 15%. In my opinion Toyota needs to do serious work on the climate control system. Cooling and heating are only passable. My belief is that the vehicle lacks proper insulation. It’s so inadequate I avoid using the vehicle whenever possible in extreme heat and cold.

This is a good argument for pre-heating. I’m sure others can do this as well, but Ford’s energi models can run the heat/defrost when plugged in to L2. 10-15 minutes and the windshield is clear and the cabin is warm. No loss to range. Doesn’t help when parked in a parking lot with no plug available, though.

When you say first generation Nissan Leaf, does that mean prior to the 2018 model year. I have a 2018 model. Does that also have a heat pump?

First-gen is previous to this newest 2018 model

I believe it is the same situation for the gen 2 leaf. Heat pump is available on 2018+ model year for higher trim models. It is not standard across lower trims.

First Gen. is up to 2018, end of 2017. They all have heat pumps.

No they don’t. The heat pump was added in 2013 and was not in the base S model. To my memory. I have a 2013 SV. This is in the US – it is certainly possible other countries only had heat pump models.

I have a 2018 and paid for Cold Weather package with lists the heated seats, steering and hybrid heat pump system. Not sure what comes with the Leaf if you dont’ have the cold weather package which isn’t standard.

In the US, in 2013, all those things are standard on the SV and SL models. I suspect that changed in 2018.

Here in Seattle, 90 percent of the time I turn the heat on to defog the windshield. Someone really needs to make an aftermarket windshield defogger for EV’s that plugs into the cigarette lighter.

When I was dating my future wife, she had an old Volvo that didn’t have a working heater. She used something like this to clear her windshield:

Portable Car Heater,Ferryone 30 Seconds Fast Heating Quickly Defrosts Defogger 12V 150W Auto Ceramic Heater Cooling Fan 3-Outlet(Red)

Maybe you should try turning the A/C on instead. It defogs the windshield before you can say “I can’t see anything” 🙂

The heater is the one thing about the Volt that I hate. Chevy’s engineers made what seemed like a rational decision when they chose the heating system for the Volt, they reasoned that the Volt has an engine, engine heat is free so they might as well put in a cheap space heater instead of an expensive heat pump because if it’s really cold you can just turn on the engine. In addition the Volt has heated seats and a heated steering wheel. The problem with that train of thought is that Volt owners don’t want to turn on the engine if at all possible. The Volt is on the hairy edge of having good enough electric range so that you can do almost all of your local driving on battery in the summer, I get up to 72 miles of range in good weather, so you get conditioned to wanting to drive in electric all of the time except when you are doing long trips. Unfortunately when the mercury drops the windshield fogs up which forces you to turn on the heat. It’s not driver comfort that forces the matter, it’s the windshield, the heated seats are good enough… Read more »

Living in Los Angeles I used the heater in my Leaf about 3 times in 6 years. Haven’t used it at all in my Tesla model S, but have only had that for 15 months. Conclusion: the speed/efficiency of the heater doesn’t matter in some geographic regions.

In a vacuum, it seems logical for BEVs to have something like a propane heater, especially in colder climates where heat pumps don’t work as well.

Unfortunately, the combination of a) the availability of PHEVs that can use engine heat for the cabin and 2) rapid improvements in battery capacity (i.e. drivers care less about energy consumption of resistive heat) will probably render propane heaters too much of a niche product to become a factory option.

The 5 kW boiler in an i-MiEV will melt 2″ of snow off the windshield within a single 30 minute remote-controlled preheat, and since it is not a 5000 Watt continuous load, it does not appreciably cycle the battery during a plugged-in preheat, and you drive away awfully close to 100% charged. Full manual control over HVAC makes it easy for hypermilers to find the optimal setting, but it is also easy for the absent-minded to blow 1/3 of range over an hour’s drive in “Sauna Mode”.

This article is misleading and wrong… the Chevy Volt has no problems with heat…. you can make the cabin as hot as you want with no range anxiety at all. It was -14F last year here… had no problems with heat… or range… unlike the leaf. The Chevy Volt has a heat pump… not mentioned in this biased article… and a range extender which means NO range anxiety .. unlike the Leaf. I’ve owned my Volt for 6 years in a cold climate… have had no problem with the heater.. in fact its much faster than a gas engine… it starts immediately does not have to “heat up”.

Kona ?

My Leaf is a 2012 and lacks a heat pump. I still like it more than the others for cold-weather driving (I have a Bolt and Volt):

– the steering wheel heat starts automatically
– the cabin heats up quickly
– preconditioning does not shut off after 10 minutes.

The seat heaters are a simple toggle switch, and I know my passengers have appreciated the rear-seat heater as well.

If I want to maximize battery range, I just set the cabin to 60 degrees in cold weather. There is a surge of power while it heats up but then it settles down to <1 kW. And it's plenty of heat to keep the windows clear of fog.

The advantage of the Leaf from fast heating is that you can turn off the heat for extended stretches minimizing the the power loss.

This article and comments have been helpful and match my experience with a 2015 eGolf (with heat pump) and 2017 Volt (without). The eGolf heat comes on faster (although not as strongly) than an ICE even at 0 degrees. However, once in a while the heat pump just would not get going (once every 2-3 weeks) at all for 10 minutes or so in temps under 20F. Also, the heat pump can be very loud, sometimes screaming, to the point where I can hear the car from within the house when another driver returns home. For the Volt, the heat always comes very quickly (less than a minute) and warms up fairly well, although not as hot as most ICE. The 3-way heated seats and the heated steering wheel are the best and I would not get a car without either now. The Volt also has an option as to when the ICE kicks in for heat (13F, lowest, I think). I hear the 2019 Volt can be set to avoid until ICE much lower temps. Range takes a big hit with both the Golf and the Volt. I don’t notice that the heat pump in the Golf is that… Read more »

Its a struggle for EVs to make heat since they do not have all that waste heat from a gas motor wasting energy. If you find your car’s range (and heat) is not living up to your latest expectations, try a 12 volt heated blanket and or some long johns. If you try to select your EV with about twice the range of your daily commute that will hopefully leave you enough juice for running those heated seats, cabin heater, or AC as needed. I use a 12V heated blanket sometimes when I go beyond my daily commuting range and it is very efficient, only 50 watt as compared to about 5000 watts for a resistive cabin heater.