We are in the dog days of summer. Heat wave after heat wave is battering our country from toe to tip. With temps breaking records from Tucson to Tucumcari, we have all been running every air conditioner we can get our hands on. As I conclude my week with the Kia EV6 GT Line, I’m reflecting on the good and bad of life with an EV. So, how much does air conditioning affect your EV’s range?
EVs are cool. After spending a week with the Kia EV6 GT, I am a bit smitten. However, the illusion quickly shattered for me when I realized how difficult it was to find consistent and reliable charging stations. This stress was exacerbated because, during this heat wave, we had the air conditioning running full blast. Before I knew what hit me, the Kia had lost a significant amount of range.
To double check, I turned off the AC, and the predicted range shot back up. This presented a very stressful balance of maintaining a comfortable temperature while also struggling to find a charging station that was either working or available.
According to Gear and Cylinder, a study done by AAA found that, on average, across a few different makes/models, EV ranges fell by 17% when driven in 95-degree conditions when using the AC. Apparently, Tesla disputed this claim, stating that Teslas dropped only about 1% in 95-degree conditions.
Car and Driver did a similar study during the winter in Michigan. The article describes putting a Tesla model 3 to the test, specifically in cold weather with the heater on. According to the article, using the seat warmers and heater on full blast dropped the range over 60 miles compared to the same distance with no HVAC running. This uses 35% more energy and significantly drops the range.
Warm temperatures are a double whammy for EV drivers. First of all, high heat makes batteries work worse right off the bat. Secondly, every function in EVs draws from the only source of power, the battery.
On a gas vehicle, the AC compressor is driven by a belt and is turned on and off using an electric clutch. On an electric vehicle, the compressor still spins, but it is electrically driven off the high-voltage batteries. While heat draws even more power, the AC significantly impacts your EV’s range.
Since we know running the car’s air conditioning is a costly comfort, you can take a few easy steps to try and stay cooler while maximizing your EV’s range. If time and location permit, trying to cool (or heat) your EV while it’s still charging is a nice way to get the car comfortable while it’s still getting juiced. Another way to help keep your EV comfortable is always to try to park in the shade or a garage as often as possible. Lastly, don’t forget to dress for the weather. This is especially important if you are going on a long trip and conserving range is more important.
EVs are the modern marvel of our time. However, there are still many hurdles to cross before EVs can be a realistic option for most drivers.
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