Hello and welcome back to another installment of the I Speak Electric Series. Whether you’re in the middle of summer or winter wherever you’re watching this from, you’ll want to stick around for the details. Yes, we’re talking about heat pumps and how they can maximize your range! 

How Cold and Hot Weather Effects Range  

So if you’ve been following our channel for a while you would have seen our video about how the weather effects the range of your EV. It was a very broad brush look at efficiency in EVs, but today we’re taking a closer look at one of the solutions.  

What is a heat pump?

So what is a heat pump? Well, it’s basically a fridge…but in reverse! In a fridge, the equipment at the back of the unit takes the heat from inside the fridge and releases it into the room.  

In terms of our EVs…we want to take heat from outside and bring it into the cabin so that we’re nice and toasty. But we don’t have to just take that heat from outside the car…we can capture heat that would be wasted by other parts of the vehicle such as the motor or the electronics. 

So what happens when a heat pump is working? Well, this is the technical bit, but it’s worth spending 30 seconds on. The refrigerant absorbs heat from a source such as a warm battery, and it changes from a liquid to a gas. This gas then gets compressed, which in turn heats it even more. This heat is then transferred into the cabin of your vehicle to heat you up. And as the heat is transferred to the cabin, it cools down and condenses back into a liquid in a secondary heat exchange. Once enough heat is extracted, the liquid passes through an expansion valve to relieve the pressure. From there it goes back through the same process again. 

Benefits of a heat pump 

So we’ve seen how heat pumps work, but what’s the point? Well, we’ve already touched on the increased efficiency of heat pumps. This means that they use less energy. So that has two main benefits. The first is that it saves us money. The biggest benefit though is the added range. To give the efficiency of heat pumps a bit of context, a heat pump is about 300% efficient. This means that for every 3kWh of heat it produces, it only uses 1kWh of battery. 

Some Cars that Have Heat Pumps  

So do you get a heat pump on every EV out there? No, not a chance! Each manufacturer seems to have a different approach. 

Tesla, for example, rolled out a heat pump in the Model Y. Since then, they have started to introduce it into the other cars in their lineup. It’s a welcome addition, and when you’re spending $100,000+ on a car, you’d like to think it would have such a valuable addition. 

Take another example of the upcoming Audi Q4e-tron entry-level model, where the heat pump is an optional extra. So if you’re considering buying an EV, it is definitely worth checking the detailed specification to see if a heat pump is included. 

Demands of Different Countries 

It’s worth having a quick think about the different demands on an EV’s heating and cooling. For example, where I live in Southern UK, we have a very mild climate. In summer we get a few days where the temperature might hit 30C, and in winter we might get snow on a handful of days per year. So the demands on my EV’s heating and cooling are pretty minimal.  

But if you talk to someone who lives in Norway or the Northeast US, then they need A LOT of heating in the winter. They might have to dig their car out of snow on a winter’s morning and drive to work in minus 20C. 

Do you need a Heat Pump?  

So do you NEED a heat pump? It’s impossible for me to say really as we all have such different demands. But if you live in a really cold place, then yeah, you’re probably going to want to get one!

The best thing to do is have a think about the kind of driving you do and the climate you live in. Do you have a driveway where you can preheat your car from your bed on a cold winter morning? Do you just do short hops in the car where you never really use more than 10 or 15% of your battery anyway?  


So that’s it from us today on the topic of heat pumps. But it’s your turn now, we’d love to hear from you! 

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