Temperature is one of the biggest enemies of electric car range. Some of them keep batteries in the prime operating temperature range for best performance, but they also keep people in their Main operating temperature. And that requires energy, which in turn takes away from what can be used for travel. In an effort to find more efficient ways to manage cabin temperature (especially heat), Ford conducted an experiment to see which worked better, a conventional HVAC system or heated interior panels.
The trial focused on delivery vehicles using E-Transit vans. The reason is that frequent opening of the doors can make it difficult to keep the cabin warm. And the company compared regular vans running HVAC and modified vans with nearly every surface hiding heating pads. and we mean Everyone, Seats, headrests, armrests, door panels, sun visors, lower steering column cowls and even the floor mats. At the end of Ford’s test period, which appears to have spanned several seasons, the heated panels managed to use 13% less energy keeping the cabin comfortable. Ford says the savings can result in a 5% improvement in driving range.
According to Ford, this is because whenever the doors of these delivery vans are opened, much of that warm air is lost immediately, and when your heater is only exclusively heating the air, you’re going to end up with a Kind of back to first place. But by heating the various surfaces in the cabin, they’ll mostly stay warm, even with the doors open, so less energy is lost.
Ford’s test is further evidence that having more temperature-controlled surfaces can increase efficiency. Back in January, automotive parts supplier ZF revealed its design for heated seatbelts, which it believes could help keep climate control energy usage down.
Certainly heated interior panels are entirely possible for cars today. Luxury automakers such as BMW and Mercedes have been offering heated armrests in addition to seats and steering wheels for years. Of course, it is possible that they are a bit expensive, so for now only offered in luxury cars. But since electric cars aren’t particularly affordable yet, they may still become popular.
It’s also worth noting that this test was done on vehicles with the idea that they would frequently open the doors and lose heat. These features may reduce the benefits in passenger cars that are not constantly losing heat. But we’re still at the point where every mile can count in an EV. It will be interesting to see if more heated panels are introduced in the near future.