Buyers considering an electric car must bear in mind that using battery-powered heating and air conditioning can decrease the car’s range by a third or more (see “BMW’s Solution to Limited Electric-Vehicle Range: A Gas-Powered Loaner”). A New York Times reviewer recently ran into this problem on a test drive, ending up stranded with a dead battery (see “Musk-New York Times Debate Highlights Electric Cars’ Shortcomings”).
But a heating and cooling system being developed by researchers at MIT almost eliminates the drain on the battery. The researchers are working with Ford on a system that they hope to test in Ford’s Focus EV within the next two years. The work is being funded with a $2.7 million grant from the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy.
The researchers describe their new device as a thermal battery. It uses materials that can store large amounts of coolant in a small volume. As the coolant moves through the system, it can be used for either heating or cooling.