How does the air conditioning in an EV work?

Ever wondered how your EV’s HVAC system works? Conventional vehicles use the heat from the engine to warm up your cabin during the cold months of the year. But how do EVs efficiently handle this task?


Gasoline-powered cars also use a belt-driven compressor for the AC, which is powered by the vehicle’s engine. The question is, how do EVs manage their AC system without a motor?


How does the air conditioning in an electric car work?

In normal vehicles, the compressor is one of the most important parts of an air conditioning system. The beauty of the compressor in conventional gas-powered vehicles is that the engine generates the power needed to turn the compressor’s pulley. This is done by a motor-driven belt that eventually spins the compressor.

Obviously, electric vehicles do not have a motor that can be used to drive the air conditioning system compressor, so what needs to be done for the compressor to work?

Well, the answer is quite simple when you consider the power source for an electric vehicle. In electric vehicles, pretty much everything revolves around the battery, which is exactly how an EV’s compressor works. EV compressors are powered by an electric motor with power from the battery.

The small electric motor engages the compressor, just as the engine power normally would in a conventional car. Once this process is underway, the actual operation of the air conditioning system is similar to what happens in a regular car. Electric vehicle air conditioning systems also have an evaporator and a condenser, just like in any typical car.

The only downside to using an EV’s air conditioning system is that you have to keep in mind that you’re using battery power, which affects the vehicle’s overall range.

How does the heating in an EV work?

Depending on the electric vehicle, the cabin heating method may vary. When considering an electric car versus a conventional combustion engine car, EVs are more efficient. When you want to move around in an electric vehicle, most of the electricity from the battery is converted into mechanical energy, making the process very efficient. But in an ICE car, much of the energy from the gasoline doesn’t help move the car; it is wasted as heat.

This is definitely a bad thing, but when it comes to helping warm your vehicle’s cabin during the winter months, it’s not such a bad deal. Essentially, the inefficiency of a gasoline engine helps keep your cab livable in cold climates without wasting a lot of extra energy. With electric vehicles, heating your cabin costs extra energy. This is why, if you’re trying to increase the range of your EV, driving in freezing weather isn’t the best idea.

With some EVs, the cabin is heated with resistors fed directly by the electricity from the battery, which is a problem because the EV range is directly affected when you use the electricity from your battery to heat your cabin. This becomes a problem when riding in super cold temperatures and your range drops off quickly, but you still have to keep blasting the heat. If the nearest charging station is a long way away, the whole situation can get a little scary. No wonder some people suffer from range anxiety!

An EV’s battery also performs less efficiently in freezing weather, which is another recipe for shorter range. Heat pumps are actually a more efficient method of heating the cabin of your electric vehicle, as they do not use resistors to heat the EV interior.

How do heat pumps help keep your electric car warm?

Heat pumps are highly efficient devices that can be used to heat the interior of your vehicle. Tesla has begun to implement this technology across their entire range of vehicles. One of the main reasons is that many EVs suffer from a loss of range during the winter months. Heating a resistor to heat the cabin uses energy directly from the battery, so the more heat you need, the more the battery drains. This is, of course, a dilemma that needs to be addressed.

The heat pump is a great solution because it works like a conventional air conditioning system. Heat pumps even have components that sound very familiar, such as a compressor, an evaporator and a condenser. These elements work together to provide heat to electric cars in winter. The heat pump is a super ingenious device that basically inverts the end product of your typical air conditioning circuit and provides heat instead of cold air.

The heat pump is more efficient than resistors for heating. The trick is that instead of using battery energy solely to heat up the cabin, the heat pump uses outside air to transfer energy to the refrigerant in the evaporator. This refrigerant, which starts to boil due to its very low boiling point, turns into a gas and goes to the compressor. The refrigerant passes through the compressor, resulting in a gas with a higher pressure and a higher temperature.

This hot gas goes to the condenser, where air is blown over it and the heat is transferred to the cabin of the vehicle. This process cools the refrigerant, which becomes liquid again. The process is repeated many times and is much more efficient than using resistance elements to heat the vehicle, especially since you are introducing energy from an outside environment. If the outside air is sufficiently cold, there will eventually come a time when the heat pump no longer works as well. While this is true in extreme cases, the heat pump will work absolutely fine in most winters.

Heat pumps are the best way to heat your EV

There are several ways to heat your vehicle in the winter, but right now heat pumps are the best solution. When looking for your next EV, ask if the vehicle has one.

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