Climate Control Load Reduction Strategies for Electric Drive Vehicles in Cold Weather

Matthew Jeffers, Lawrence Chaney, John Rugh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus Citations


When operated, the cabin climate control system is the largest auxiliary load on a vehicle. This load has significant impact on fuel economy for conventional and hybrid vehicles, and it drastically reduces the driving range of all-electric vehicles (EVs). Heating is even more detrimental to EV range than cooling because no engine waste heat is available. Reducing the thermal loads on the vehicle climate control system will extend driving range and increase the market penetration of EVs. Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have evaluated strategies for vehicle climate control load reduction with special attention toward grid-connected electric vehicles. Outdoor vehicle thermal testing and computational modeling were used to assess potential strategies for improved thermal management and to evaluate the effectiveness of thermal load reduction technologies. A human physiology model was also used to evaluate the impact on occupant thermal comfort. Experimental evaluations of zonal heating strategies demonstrated a 5.5% to 28.5% reduction in cabin heating energy over a 20-minute warm-up. Vehicle simulations over various drive cycles show a 6.9% to 18.7% improvement in EV range over baseline heating using the most promising zonal heating strategy investigated. A national-level analysis was conducted to determine the overall national impact. If all vehicles used the best zonal strategy, the range would be improved by 7.1% over the baseline heating range. This is a 33% reduction in the range penalty for heating.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)75-82
Number of pages8
JournalSAE International Journal of Passenger Cars - Mechanical Systems
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

See NREL/CP-5400-65439 for preprint

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5400-66323


  • climate control
  • electric vehicle
  • fuel economy
  • load reduction
  • thermal load


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