Cold weather poses a challenge for EVs (though hardly a deal-breaker, as thousands of Norwegian drivers can attest). Not only does battery performance take a hit in low temperatures, but the resistance heating systems used in most EVs consume power, reducing range.
Tesla has addressed that issue with the design of the Model Y, which will be the company’s first vehicle to use a heat pump in place of a resistance heater.
A heat pump works like an air conditioner in reverse. It takes advantage of the low boiling point of a refrigerant to transfer heat in the desired direction—in this case, moving warm air into the passenger cabin. Because they basically transfer heat instead of generating it, heat pumps are very efficient.
Tesla enthusiast and YouTuber Andy Slye has produced a video (via Teslarati) that explains how resistance heaters and heat pumps work, and explains the advantages of Model Y’s new heating system. Other EVs tend to see a dramatic drop in range in cold temperatures—sometimes as much as 40%. However, Model Y, with its efficient heat pump, is expected to deliver something close to its normal range even in freezing conditions.
Teslas are already known for their good wintertime performance. Model Y’s improved heating system may just make it the ultimate winter vehicle.
Model Y heat pump is some of the best engineering I’ve seen in a while. Team did next-level work.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 23, 2020
Yes. PCB design techniques applied to create a heat exchanger that is physically impossible by normal means. Heat pump also has a local heating loop to spool up fast & extend usable temperature range. Octavalve is pretty special too. Team did great work. No credit to me.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 24, 2020