Can using the aircon drain the battery on an electric car?
By Sourced Externally
December 21, 2023
If you want to get the most out of your EV’s battery, should you avoid using your car’s climate control? Here’s what you need to know.
Electric car owners planning summer road trips might be grappling with some range anxiety, as charging providers warn of substantial wait times at charging locations along major interstate routes over the Christmas period.
So how can you ensure you’re spending less time at a charging station and more time on the road?
One of the questions that often pops up in regards to electric vehicle (EV) range is related to climate control or air conditioning and its impact on range.
You may already know that cold weather can impact an electric car’s range, because the car’s systems will use some extra energy to get the battery up to its optimum operating temperature.
But what about hot weather? Could blasting the air conditioning system leave you stranded 20km from home?
How does aircon affect EV range?
While using your car’s air conditioning system will have an impact on your EV’s battery and range, it will be negligible – and it won’t be anywhere as bad as the impact of using your car’s heating system on a cold day.
“Naturally it’s all energy consumption so it will have an impact on it, but it will be a minimal impact,” Matt McCroarey, Customer Service Senior Manager at Polestar Australia, told Drive.
“Ambient temperature is the biggest effect on electric vehicles, particularly in Australia. In summertime, if you have your air conditioning all the way up, you will see some range degradation of around 1–2km.
“[However] you’ll see more range adversity and degradation on cold days as the battery heats to optimal condition as well.”
In July 2023, American clean tech start-up Recurrent analysed battery readings from 7500 electric vehicles to better understand the impact of warm weather and air conditioning on EV range.
It found range loss was minimal, with EVs losing roughly 2.8 per cent of total range at 26 degrees Celsius (80 degrees Fahrenheit), and five per cent of total range at 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit).
“Go ahead and use your air conditioner. A/C has much less of a negative impact on EV range than a resistance heater, and range does not really begin to dip until at least 85 degrees Fahreinheit [29 degrees Celsius],” Recurrent said of its findings.
If you’re worried about range on a hot summer day, it’s best to utilise your car’s pre-cooling system while the car is plugged in to charge.
“This is great because the most energy-intensive part of air conditioning is the initial cool down. It may take 3–5kW of energy to get a [35-degree] car to a comfortable temperature, but it takes only around 1kW to keep it at [21 degrees],” Recurrent explained.
Finally, when trying to conserve battery while on the road, the more important factor is your driving style.
“Energy consumption in an electric car will depend on many factors … the main impact will come from how fast you drive,” explained Edwin Higginson, Founder and Director of Australian EVs, a national electric vehicle specialist.
“Are you going for a Sunday cruise on your own, or racing to the airport with your family full of luggage just in time to catch your flight?”
Other quick ways to extend your EV’s range include using your car’s cruise control to moderate pedal input, pumping up the tyre pressures so the car rolls more easily, coasting into traffic and avoiding sudden braking or accelerating, and using your car’s Eco climate-control setting.