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Pumping EV heat

  • Magazine Article
  • 21AUTP04_05
Published April 01, 2021 by SAE International in United States
  • English

Heat-pump technology is a game-changer for the widespread adoption of electric vehicles, says a service-tech training expert and EV owner.

The Automotive Career Development Center (ACDC) that I founded over 20 years ago provides training and tech support to the world's independent electric-vehicle (EV and hybrid) technicians, who will be asked to fix and maintain the systems as they age. Our facility in central Massachusetts includes a variety of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery-electric vehicles (BEV) that we use for both teaching and research. It has also supported my own investigations into cabin-heater technology and its annoying “your range may vary” impact on BEV use in northern climates.

This curiosity began when I bought a new 2011 Chevrolet Volt to add to the ACDC fleet. The Volt, a series-type hybrid, has an electric-only range of about 35 miles (56 km) in ideal thermal conditions. If I drive back roads at 35 mph (56 km/h), the Volt may deliver 40 miles (64 km) of pure-electric use before the combustion engine kicks in. During winter, however, that EV range plummets to less than 20 miles (32 km).