The race is on to produce electric vehicles that have a usable driving range to become a first car for the majority of Americans. Nissan didn’t spend much time developing the LEAF, and the proof is in the pudding. Range is very limited, and issues with owners in hot climates like Pheonix are becoming widespread.
That’s because it doesn’t utilize any thermal cooling in the battery pack, something that many pointed out as an issue from the get go. Currently only one EV is suitable for long distance drives, and that is the Tesla Model S. Range will be boosted on future cars through both advances in battery technology and innovative solutions.
For the latter, BMW has debuted one that could have a potentially very big impact. In cars with internal combustion engines, heating is easy – it is generated via the engine. Electrics don’t have that advantage, making warming the car’s cabin a large draw on the battery pack. When plugged in at home, this isn’t as big of an issue as the cabin can be preheated. In other situations, particularly in cold climates, it is a big issue though. BMW thinks it has just the solution with infared heating. It is quite brilliant really, and the innovation centers around elements in the door panels and footwells that radiate heat (think of a heating pad).
The system is active within 1 minute of being turned on, and would reduce the draw on the battery significantly. It is a similar idea to radiant heat in a house. Not only is it an energy saving measure, but BMW says the feature would boost cabin comfort as well. Each passenger could select their own temperature settings, which would work in concert with the heated seats. There are other advantages as well, such as the fact that it doesn’t pull in cabin contaminants. We could see this debut on future electric models such as the i3 or i8.