Researchers develop electricity-saving vehicle heating and cooling system

The prototype system uses an adsorbant, a material with microscopic pores that attract water molecules, to drive an evaporative cooling process.

 

While EVs have a number of advantages over legacy vehicles, they also have a problem that their fuel-burning colleagues don’t share: heating and cooling the vehicle means draining the battery, which can reduce range by a substantial amount.

Evelyn Wang, a professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, is leading a team of researchers that hopes to turn that little problem into an opportunity, by developing a heating and cooling system that requires almost no electrical power, MIT Technology Review reported last week. The team is collaborating with Ford, and plans to test the system in a Focus Electric within the next two years. The project received a $2.7 million grant from the Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The prototype system uses an adsorbant (note the “d”), a material with microscopic pores that attract water molecules, to drive an evaporative cooling process that can heat or cool a vehicle’s passenger compartment. It requires only enough electricity to run a small pump and a couple of fans.

Once the adsorbant has taken on its full capacity of water, the system must be recharged by heating the adsorbant to make it release the water. This can be done using an electric heater, or something like a solar water heater, and could be accomplished while the vehicle’s battery pack is being charged.

The system is similar to some that are already being used in buildings, but the researchers have developed a more compact design suitable for use in vehicles.

 

Image by Ian McKay
Source: MIT Technology Review