How Electric Car Air Conditioning Works

While the original goal of electrified vehicles was to lessen our contribution to global warming, there is no denying that they have also helped us save money. Vehicles powered by electricity are far more effective than their internal combustion engine counterparts. However, there is one crucial idea that needs to be covered: how does the air conditioning in an electric automobile function?

How Electric Car Air Conditioning Works
How Electric Car Air Conditioning Works

When operating on a combustion engine, the air conditioner draws electricity directly from the engine, but when operating on a battery-powered vehicle, it must get power from the battery. Surely this has some bearing on the vehicle’s efficiency, right? How does it affect the car’s battery life? Any ramifications I should think about?

In this piece, we’ll examine the technical details of air conditioning in electric vehicles, including how it operates and how its use affects your driving range.

Does the performance of a battery-powered car suffer if the air conditioner is on?

To a considerably greater extent than with internal combustion engines, turning on the air conditioner in an electric car can have a significant effect on its performance.

The use of an air conditioner can reduce your gas mileage by as much as 30 percent in congested urban areas, but by just 20 to 25 percent on long, open sections of roadway.

If the outdoor temperature is extremely high, above 95 degrees Fahrenheit, this decrease will be significantly more severe.

Take Tesla electric vehicles as an example. The vehicle’s energy storage system supplies power to the air conditioner’s compressor, which is placed in the vehicle’s front (ESS).

The ESS can be found in the rear, in case you were wondering. Due to the greater distance heat or air conditioning must travel, more energy is wasted when used in extremely cold temperatures.

According to the National Electric Code, the maximum current consumption for an electric vehicle is 40 amps (however this might vary depending on how hard you press the accelerator and the vehicle’s manufacturer) (NEC). The amount of energy stored in a car battery can range from 50 amp hours to 500 amp hours. Most electric vehicles with air conditioning draw 32 amps when the weather is mild and 36 amps when it’s extremely hot.

There’s a considerable probability your air conditioner won’t work if you use a battery with a low capacity. The foregoing calculations show that the air conditioner will have an effect on the performance of your electric vehicle regardless of the battery that is fitted.

However, this effect was significantly larger before 2018. The idea of using electricity to power automobiles was being discussed at length at the time.

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The European Union funded a research team to investigate the problem of air conditioning and develop a system to regulate temperature and humidity in vehicles in a way that would reduce the energy consumption of the vehicle’s HVAC system(s) and so increase its driving range. The mission statement read, “improve electric vehicle range while increasing passenger comfort.”

Because of this need, the Horizon2020 XERIC (Innovative Climate-Control System to Extend Range of Electric Vehicles) was created.

The vapor-compressive component of the hybrid system would work in tandem with the liquid desiccant cycle to mitigate the negative effects of high humidity.

How Electrical Car Air Conditioning Works

Now that we know how much your electrical vehicle’s performance is affected by the HVAC system, we can dive into the technical details of how electric car air conditioning actually functions.

When the air conditioner is turned on in an electric car, the current coming from the battery and headed for the engine is quickly divided in two.

Since this is the case, you may experience a slight shaking when you first start your car. Your ears would have picked up some pulsing and thumps from the engine if this vehicle ran on fossil fuel.

Electricity travels to the compressor and activates it. The pressure of the refrigerant in the coils is raised when the compressor is activated.

When air from your car’s fan is forced onto the compressed refrigerant, the temperature of the air drops instantly. The system then forces the cool air out of the vent(s) and into the car’s interior.

How Does a Compressor Work, and What Is It?

No matter whether it is a conventional car, an electric vehicle, or a building, an air conditioner needs a compressor in order to function.

For the unit to function, oil and refrigerant must be pumped through the system, and this is done by a compressor. The compressor is responsible for two primary tasks that are essential to the air-cooling process.

The first involves increasing the pressure within the refrigeration system so that the temperature of the refrigerant is greater than that of the ambient air.

Not having that take place prevents heat transfer, hence it’s crucial.

The second crucial function of the compressor is to produce low air pressure within the evaporator. It is possible for the refrigerant to boil and vaporize when the pressure inside the evaporator is low enough.

Because of this, the refrigerant is able to absorb vast amounts of energy from the vehicle’s cabin heat.

The compressor also circulates both the oil from the compressor and the refrigerant throughout the entire air conditioning system, ensuring that they are thoroughly combined.

A breakdown in any of a compressor’s primary tasks would have an adverse effect on the AC system’s ability to pump refrigerant around.

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If either of these two components fails to work as it should, the refrigerant flow could slow down or stop altogether. This has an effect on how well the system cools.

Each compressor has its own dedicated intake and exhaust lines.

The low-temperature, low-pressure gas from the evaporator is drawn into the system via the input or suction line. However, the compressor’s discharge line is responsible for transmitting the refrigerant gas it produces to the condenser.

Both the temperature and pressure of the released gas are extremely high. The diameter of the line that helps with the discharge of the refrigerant gas will always be less than the diameter of the line that helps with the suction of the gas.

In order to conserve energy, electric vehicle air conditioning systems have moderators, which are essentially temperature and humidity sensors that signal the compressor to shut down once the set temperature is reached. It’s crucial that this be taken care of so the compressor doesn’t keep using more power than it needs to.

How do Temperature Sensors Work?

Electric vehicles’ HVAC systems often use two temperature sensors: one for the cabin air and one for the ambient air.

Thermistors, which consist of two wires and a temperature sensor, could be used to monitor passengers’ body heat.

With the help of a blower fan and an aspirator tube, they can draw air through the sensor.

This is a fascinating topic, perhaps not for companies who make just electric cars but for buyers all the same.

It was found that the technology utilized in EV air conditioners might work in regular cars as well.

This implies it has the potential to lessen the negative effects on the environment and increase the efficiency of the air conditioning systems in conventional vehicles.

Furthermore, as the AC system of electric vehicles does not require the consumption of fuel, the car owners would save expenditures, and less air pollution would be produced.

Although no major automaker has publicly committed to adding this feature, it is certainly feasible and could happen in the near future.

Electric car’s air conditioning is quite straightforward when it comes to cooling your automobile down. However, when it comes time to generate heat for the cabin, that’s when the “science” (or intricacy) comes into play. Just like in hotter weather, in extreme cold, your car’s economy will decline.

Electric Car’s Heating System

Simple heat transfer from the engine to the cabin is achieved in internal combustion vehicle refrigeration systems (a process in which it ends up expanding instead of getting compressed).

To warm the car’s cabin, the heated coolant is routed past the blower. When your automobile gets hot, the efficiency of a combustion engine doesn’t suffer as much as that of an electric car.

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Unless you are driving at the vehicle’s absolute maximum, an electric car won’t get very hot, so you’ll need to use the battery once more to warm up your vehicle.

When the heater is on inside of an electric vehicle, the vehicle’s performance drops by at least 17 percent.

Let’s think about Tesla’s models once more. The car’s interior can be warmed by a separate electric heater. Because of this, the ESS employs a positive temperature coefficient (instead of a negative one) in which the electric current flows via a resistor to regulate the heater’s power consumption.

In the following, we will describe the function of a resistor.

These resistors get hot from the current trying to flow through them, and the blower carries that heat into the cabin. Now here’s the catch.

A resistor takes on a more “rigid” quality as more and more current is passed through it. More power is required to heat a resistor to a higher temperature.

Consider your stove for a second. The higher the temperature setting, the more power it will use. The longer you leave it on, the more money you’ll spend on energy.

This is why temperature and humidity sensors were built right into the heating system.

When the interior temperature is set, the automobile will stop heating the air and will return to normal ventilation. Instead, the temperature is maintained by alternating hot and warm air.

A caveat: unless you have a temperature control option, the car’s interior will always be heated by the engine’s exhaust. Because of this, you might want to lower the temperature after a while. The Tesla models solve this problem entirely.

What is a Resistor, and How Does it Work?

One of a resistor’s primary roles is to block the path of electrons through a circuit. They do nothing active and actively consume electricity. Three methods exist for limiting the current through a resistor:

  • Instead of allowing the current to go through, they choose a substance that is less conducive.
  • In order to reduce the material’s conductivity, they thin it.
  • They stretch the conductor, allowing the resistor to build up enough current to generate heat.
  • There are resistors whose core is insulating and whose wiring is looped around the insulating core. Some people substitute a carbon spiral for a wire.

In contrast, the former is steadier and more accurate over time. The resistance a wire provides is proportional to its thickness and the number of times it wraps around an insulator.


The air conditioner in a traditional car is powered by the engine, while the AC in an electric vehicle is run by electricity from the battery.

The remaining capabilities of the AC systems in these vehicles are equivalent. A heater’s functionality is more nuanced than that of an electric car’s air conditioner.

Electric vehicles (electric cars and electric bikes) have been interesting to me for the past few years, and I will always love them. With my electric car, I spend many of my weekends going to different places in different cities. Here I am sharing my knowledge, experience, and important facts about electric cars and electric bikes.

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