Electric cars are no longer a futuristic concept. In fact, studies indicate that by the year 2040, electric cars will account for more than 50% of the vehicles on the road. Given how increasingly popular this electrical means of transportation is becoming, it begs one to question: what really are electric cars, and how do electric cars make heat while saving up on important fossil fuels.
Electric cars—what are they really?
Whether you are planning to buy, or have recently purchased, an Electric Vehicle (EV), it is essential that you study every feature. Electric cars are the best products technology has incorporated in the name of a greener earth.
Electric cars, famously known as electric vehicles, or EVs, typically work by taking electricity from the grid to charge themselves. The vehicle then stores the energy in rechargeable battery packs. The batteries power an electric motor, which turns the wheels like a regular engine.
Apart from the generic EV, there are plug-in hybrids as well; however, these do not work in the same way. Plug-in hybrids run on both gasoline engines and electric motors. Similarly, the EV range offers self-charging hybrids and mild hybrids that work just like plug-in hybrids.
How do electric cars make heat?
In order to understand how electric cars make heat, one must first understand how electric cars differ from traditional cars. Petrol and diesel run cars provide heat by reusing engine exhaust heat. Electric cars do not run on this function.
In a typical electric car, the engine or motor loses energy by producing heat as a byproduct of running. Because a high-efficiency electric motor generates relatively little heat, the air temperature must be increased in other ways. This means using a primary resistive heater similar to those in a fan heater or electric fire in early EVs. This was a common feature in the early electric cars. EV manufacturers soon realized it was a waste of electricity, however, and they worked hard to find a way to avoid it.
The heat pump system
Recent electric cars use a heat pump system. Anyone involved in eco-homes or green construction would recognize this heating system. An efficient heat pump functions similarly to an air conditioning unit and has the potential to transport heat into the cabin at an efficiency above 100%.
Electrical energy is transformed into heat energy by a standard heater. The heat pump compresses thermal energy from the outside air before delivering it. A high-efficiency heat pump may produce more than 4kW of thermal energy for every 1kW electric power.
Cold weather decreases the effectiveness of an electric vehicle. The same holds true for standard automobiles. This is because the automobile must consume more fuel when the weather is chilly. This is known as range decrease, and it is something that owners of all-electric vehicles must struggle with if they reside in colder climates.
The battery dilemma
The batteries in an electric vehicle are required for driving, but they are also required for other aspects of the driving dynamics, such as:
- When the battery is cold, it gets heated
- The battery must stay relatively cool
- It must power the car’s heating system
You cannot utilize all of the energy consumed to drive. Furthermore, since an electric car’s battery does not generate as much heat as a conventional engine, a heater is required to heat the vehicle cabin.
How do electric cars make heat largely depends on its heaters. Heaters are classified into two types: resistive heaters and heat pumps. While most electric vehicles still use resistive heaters, heat pump heating systems are rapidly gaining popularity as well. Both kinds of heaters operate by drawing energy from the battery.
What is the Process of Resistive Heating?
Resistive heating was one of the earliest forms of EV heating to emerge. It is quite similar to the use of an electric heater in a home.This heating method employs high resistance electrical wiring, and when electricity runs through such cables, the impedance increases tension. This causes the circuit to heat up.
These cables then supply heat, which must transfer from the heating element into the car’s interior. The simplest solution to do so is to attach it to a network of tubes and blowers that circulate hot air around heaters and into the cabin.
In recent models of EV, the heater is installed within the car’s cooling loop, a more efficient technology used by EV makers. Thus, the heater has to heat the cooling liquid rather than the air surrounding it.The more power carried through the heater, the more heat flows into the cooling solution, heating the cabin.
Is the resistive heating approach any good?
The advantage of the resistive heating approach is that it has been demonstrated to be dependable and straightforward. Not only this, but it is also relatively inexpensive to construct.However, it has a significant disadvantage in the EV market because it is the polar opposite of efficiency. In a system where battery life equals mileage, every point of heat rise means kilometers of range lost.
This is because a resistive heater solely draws energy from your EV’s battery system. The more heat you extract from it, the more electricity it sucks from the battery.
Heat Pumps for Heating
Even though the innovation is not new, EV heating systems are still considered as the hip new kid in town and an important concept to consider when answering questions like how do electric cars make heat. The simplest way to elaborate a heat pump is as a reversed fridge or cooling system.Contrary to popular belief, an air conditioner doesn’t actively chill the atmospheric air by introducing colder air. Instead, it actively collects air, removes the hot air, and returns just the cool air. After that, the heated hair is taken outside and evacuated.
So, what might occur if you just reversed the process? You would receive a heat pump.
A heat pump gathers the surrounding atmospheres within and outside the car, including various hot air causes, such as heat from the electronics, etc. It then similarly eliminates the hot air, but instead of releasing it outside, it distributes it within the cabin. The frigid air is instead blasted outdoors.
The advantage of employing heat pumps is that they are highly effective, up to 300 percent, which means that every 1 kilowatt of electric power may create 3 kilowatts of thermal energy. This is almost three times as efficient as the PTC heater.
Heat pumps are standard or optional on the Tesla Model Y and comparable electric vehicles. They may be a bit expensive, but they will likely be the most efficient choice if you can afford them; however, their main disadvantage is that they must be used in frigid, virtually inhabitable temperatures with very little surrounding heat to remove.
What Sets a Heat Pump Apart from a Gasoline Engine?
You may be asking how this differs from a gasoline engine or why heating is a massive concern with EVs but seldom mentioned when it comes to gasoline-powered cars.
Gasoline produces a LOT of heat. In actuality, only one-third of the heat produced is believed to be transformed into usable energy, with the remainder being lost via the emission and coolant pump.If you need to heat the cabin, you merely need to take part of the heat losses and reroute it via a cooling grid. That is precisely how a gasoline-powered car produces heating: via engine waste heat.
Pro Tip: Heating with a Positive Temperature Coefficient is More Efficient
While on the subject regarding “how do electric cars make heat”, taking the positive temperature coefficient into account is extremely important. Positive temperature coefficient (PTC) heaters bring efficiency and safety to the heating systems of electric cars. Similar to resistive heaters, they utilize an electric charge traveling via resistance to generate heat. They are, though, far superior in how they do it.PTC is essentially a technique that is utilized in a variety of items. It comprises either a carbon and silicon circuitry sprayed onto any substrate shee, or a specific ink comprising the ingredients needed to print or sketch the circuit.
PTC heaters are adaptable due to their silicon-based, printable architecture. Because of their flexibility, they may be shaped to fit almost any shape or item.When PTC heaters are frigid, they automatically enable more power to travel across them, warming them up. As things heat up, though, they begin to resist electricity, reducing the flow of power.
Because of their inherent resistance, they self-regulate the temperature, eliminating the need for intricate and costly thermostats required by resistive heating solutions. It also implies that they can better utilize resistive heating solutions, which might rapidly overheat if a thermostat breaks.
PTC heaters heat up rapidly and maintain temperatures more consistently than resistive heaters. Their operating temperature range may also be adjusted during construction, allowing them to be manufactured to tolerate a more comprehensive temperature range than resistive heaters.
They are also way more effective than conventional resistive heating counterparts. For these reasons, they have long been employed in Tesla, up until recently; however, the key drawback of PTC heaters is that they are still restive heaters, pulling all of the required thermal energy from your batteries, although more efficiently.
Knowing answers to questions like” how do electric cars make heat” is crucial to any EV enthusiast. Unlike gas-powered cars, electric cars cannot use the motor’s surplus warmth to heat the interior. This means that they must create heat via other sources. The most basic method is a resistive heater, which performs well but is ineffectual.The PTC heater on the other hand is an improved, more effective, cleaner, and automated version. This is in comparison to a heat pump, which pulls in the surrounding atmosphere, separates the warm air, and pushes it into the chamber while releasing the cooler air.