How does air conditioning work in an electric car? | AutoGuru
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How does air conditioning work in an electric car?

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Updated 11 Oct 2019

Michael Jacobson

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Electric vehicles (EV) are big news at the moment, with many factors influencing both the rate of consumer uptake and economic projections and outcomes for manufacturers.

On the technical/mechanical side, an important part of the discussion is the performance of EV features in comparison with their counterparts in traditional vehicles.

Take the air conditioning, for example, because it is the efficiency, reliability and longevity of components like the AC that are currently – so to speak – giving potential buyers so much to think about as they ponder the leap from internal combustion to battery power.

In traditional vehicles, the engine provides the power for the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system.

An electric car does things differently because there is no engine, and so delivering power to the AC and just about everything else is determined by the amount of stored battery energy.

In the case of Tesla EVs, for example, the AC compressor is located at the front of the car and draws power from the Energy Storage System, or ESS, in the back.

This compressor works off 400 volts, directs refrigerant through to an independent chilling unit and then cools the air for dispersal through the vents and into the cabin.

Of course, just as the AC affects engine performance in a traditional vehicle – minutely each time, but cumulatively over time – the issue of performance impact is an important one for proponents and manufacturers of EVs, and economic/government organisations.

In 2018, research funded by the European Union led to development of what it describes as an "innovative climate control system that extends the range of electric vehicles while enhancing passenger comfort".

Despite being lumbered with an unwieldy title – Horizon2020 XERIC (Innovative Climate-Control System to Extend Range of Electric Vehicles) – the research came up with "a solution based on a hybrid system that combines a liquid desiccant cycle, which combats humidity, with a traditional vapour-compressive cycle that deals with temperature".

You can read more about the research here.

One interesting aspect – at least for consumers, if not necessarily for EV-only manufacturers – was the identified potential to extend the new technology beyond electric vehicles and improve AC and climate control in traditional vehicles, thus resulting in "reduced fuel consumption and related air pollution".

Excuse the cliché, but clearly the atmosphere is electric around electric cars.

That's unlikely to change as the automotive industry responds to consumer and government demand for vehicles that combine high performance, economy and reliability, with reduced emissions and environmental impact.

You can read more about electric vehicles on our AutoGuru website.

To EV or not to EV

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Written By

Michael Jacobson

Michael Jacobson is an award-winning Queensland-based writer.

His appreciation for motoring began as a young journalist covering racing from Simmons Plains in Tasmania.

Over the years he has interviewed many Australian and international motoring greats.

He has also been driven around Lakeside Raceway at ferocious speed, circumnavigated the Gold Coast Indy circuit at more than 200kmh and managed to squeeze 365,000 kilometres out of a Toyota Starlet.