How Cabin Heating Works in Electric Vehicles (EVs)

EV driving on road

If you’re thinking about buying an electric vehicle (EV), you might be wondering how the cabin heating works in it. EVs have climate-control systems. They can blast cool air into the cabin during the summer, and they can blast warm air into the cabin during the winter. With an electric engine, though, EVs leverage a different technology for cabin heating than traditional vehicles.

ICE Heating

Vehicles with a traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) use coolant to warm the cabin. The primary purpose of coolant is to remove heat from combustion engines. As they ignite air and gas, combustion engines will heat up. Some of them can reach temperatures of up to 2,8000 degrees Fahrenheit. If left unchecked, the heat will continue to increase while potentially causing catastrophic damage to the combustion engine.

Coolant will remove heat from the combustion engine so that it’s protected from damage. Coolant will flow through the engine where it absorbs heat. It will then travel to the radiator where a fan releases the heat into the surrounding environment.

If the driver has the heater turned on inside of the cabin, coolant will also travel to a miniature heat pump known as a heater core. The hot coolant will be redirected to the heater core after leaving the combustion engine. While at the heater core, a separate fan will blow over the heater core. This will create hot air that enters the cabin to warm it.

EV Heating

There are different types of climate-control systems for EVs. Some EVs use an electric coil to warm their cabin. They work like space heaters. When you turn on the heater inside of the cabin, electricity will flow through a metal coil. The metal coil will then heat up, and with the help of a fan, it will produce hot air for the EV’s cabin.

Other EVs use a heat pump. Heat pumps are climate-control systems that are commonly used in homes and commercial buildings. To cool a home or building, they will transfer heat out of the indoor space using equipment similar to that of an air conditioning system. To warm a home or building, they will transfer heat from an outdoor space into the home or building.

In the past, most EVs used an electrical coil for cabin heating. While electrical coils aren’t obsolete, they are gradually being phased out in favor of heat pumps. Heat pumps are more efficient. And with their high efficiency, heat pumps can extend the driving range of EVs.

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