How Long Can You Leave a Parked Electric Car’s Heater Running?

An electric car is designed to be technologically superior and more advanced than conventional gasoline-powered vehicles in almost every way.

Not only is an electric car’s green, eco-friendly engines a massive step toward automobile evolution, but all of its mechanisms and designs have allowed humanity to have a taste of futuristic automobile technology.

One such mechanism that is designed to be nearly perfect is an electric car’s internal heating system, which is almost 80 to 99% energy efficient, unlike what you would find on gas-powered cars.

However, considering the power draw of the internal heating system, how long can an electric car idle with the heat on in the United States?

How Long Can an Electric Car Idle with the Heat on?

As mentioned above, an electric car results from major innovations and improvements in the global automobile industry.

Hence, all of its mechanisms are designed to be superior to that of a traditional combustion engine vehicle.

The heating system of an electric car is nothing like that of a gasoline-powered vehicle. As a matter of fact, the cabin heating of a modern-day electric car is said to be one of its most energy-efficient mechanisms.

The internal heating system is especially useful when one has to idle an electric car on a cold winter day.

In a gasoline-powered vehicle, the heat energy created as a by-product of the engine’s combustion reaction is pushed around to heat up the car’s internal cabin.

However, when the car is idling, and no more fossil fuel combustion reaction is taking place, no excess heat energy will be produced as a by-product.

This is why most people complain that the heaters of their gasoline-powered cars stop producing any hot air when their car is idling and only start to heat the internal cabin again once the car is moving.

On the other hand, an electric car’s mechanism is not limited to such a traditional way of working as its energy production and mobility are not dependent on the combustion of fossil fuel.

Instead, an electric car can keep its internal cabin warm on a cold winter day for several hours while idling.

The exact number of hours will depend on the electric car’s brand, the size of its battery, and the size of its internal cabin.

For instance, a modern Tesla electric car can allow up to three hours of cabin heating as the EV is idling, while an older EV might be able to offer one hour only.

Continue reading below to learn about what is electric car idling, how the internal heating system of an electric car works, and how an electric car can keep the internal cabin warm on a cold day while idling?

Moreover, the article also sheds light on what happens if the heater of an electric car keeps running for an extended period, along with listing down some additional tips one can follow to keep them warm in an idling electric car.

Let’s get started!

What is Electric Car Idling?

Any car, whether it is electric or gasoline-powered, is said to be idling when its engine is running while the car is idle.

Usually, cars idle during prolonged traffic jams, inside a garage to warm up the engine, or simply when the driver waits for someone in their car.

Idling in a gasoline-powered car on a cold winter day is never easy as the car stops expelling any heated air into the interior cabin when fossil fuel combustion is not taking place.

On the contrary, sitting in a fully heated electric car that has been idling for a few hours is possible. This is one of the main reasons why people living in colder regions are starting to prefer battery-powered vehicles over traditional combustion engines.

However, like all modern-day inventions, the electric car’s heating system also has its limitations.

Although it allows its passengers to remain warm in the cabin heating for two to three hours while the car is idling, if the car remains to sit idle for more than a few hours, the battery will begin to get depleted quickly.

This will thus affect the electric car’s range and might discourage people from running their EV’s heating system for too long if they have to cover a long distance.

Continue reading to better understand how an electric car’s internal heating system is designed to work.

How Does the Internal Heating System of an Electric Car Work?

Most modern electric car brands that have incorporated the latest EV technology have managed to install a cabin heating system with unparalleled energy efficiency.

Some of these modern electric car brands include Audi, Tesla, Nissan, BMW, etc., while many other brands are also working hard to adapt to these new battery-saving innovations.

These electric cars contain a heat pump that solely depends on the temperature gradient that is formed between the EV’s refrigerant and the external cold winter air.

As the car is idling, the EV’s inbuilt heater converts some of the lithium-ion battery’s stored electric energy to heat energy.

This heat energy helps heat up the air surrounding the electric car. Since the outside air gets hotter, it starts to move into the electric car’s cabin space, down a temperature gradient.

The heat pumps then begin their function by taking up the thermal energy of the hot air and compressing it just the way an air conditioner does.

The compression further heats up the air drastically, which is then blown out into the electric car’s cabin area, heating it up.

Since only a small amount of electric charge is used up to create the heat energy, while the heat pump does not take up the energy from the electric car’s lithium-ion battery, the battery charge remains high, and the range is not damaged.

This is why it is possible to remain warm in the cabin of an idling electric car for a couple of hours without having to worry about the battery’s depletion or reduced range.

This heat pump can be found in most of the most advanced electric cars and is considered one of the most energy-efficient components of an electric car.

As a matter of fact, the heat pump of a Tesla electric car is said to offer nearly 100% energy efficiency. This means that you don’t waste your battery, which serves to improve the car’s overall range.

Hence, although skeptics are often worried about using an electric car on cold days, they have very little to worry about as long as their lithium-ion battery is fully charged and in good working condition.

Moreover, the electric car heat pump’s energy efficiency is further increased as it is not designed to function at all times. Instead, the heat pump will automatically turn on only when the EV’s passenger sets up the required cabin temperature.

Furthermore, some additional benefits that make an electric car’s heat pump far superior to the traditional combustion engine heating method are as follows:

  • Conventional fossil fuel-powered vehicles depend on the combustion of fossil fuel for heat energy and at least need 15 to 20 minutes to sufficiently warm up their internal cabins.
  • While on the contrary, an electric car’s heat pump is able to heat up the cabin air in under a few minutes.
  • Since there is no time delay, there is no need to idle an electric car just to heat it up. As a result, battery charge wastage is further minimized.
  • Owners of gasoline-powered vehicles usually have to leave their cars parked outside for some time until the internal cabin is heated up sufficiently.
  • While this may not seem like a big problem to many, it actually increases the chances of car theft.
  • On the other hand, since an electric car can be heated up instantly, the passengers do not have to wait inside their homes for the car to get sufficiently warm. Hence, you don’t have to worry too much about your car being stolen.
  •  Most modern-day electric cars come with remote control systems that allow the driver to set up the cabin temperature from home. This further minimizes the chances of any time delays.
  • Finally, and most importantly, a majority of heat pumps offer 80 to 100% energy efficiency.
  • Hence, the battery’s charging and range remain unaffected even when the heater of an idling EV has been running for a couple of hours.

However, as mentioned above, all-electric vehicles and their modern mechanisms do come with their limitations.

Hence, if you keep the cabin heating on of an idling electric car for more than three hours, it can be problematic.

Keep reading below to learn about this.

What Happens if the Heater of an Idling Electric Car Keeps Running for More than the Advised Period?

Even the most technologically advanced electric cars, such as those produced by Tesla, can only maintain the energy efficiency of an idling EV’s heating system for so long.

If the cabin heating system of an idling electric car keeps running for more than the advised period, the following problems can occur:

  • The lithium-ion battery’s stored charge will start depleting quickly. If this continues, the battery will not have enough charge to offer sufficient range.
  • As a result, the driver will have to recharge the battery at home, wasting time and money, and will have to go through the hassle of locating a public charging station to recharge their battery if they’re already out on the road.
  • This may require rerouting, which may lead to a time delay.
  • Moreover, with less battery range, the top speed of the electric car will be compromised.
  • As a result, the driver will not be able to hit higher speeds and might not reach their destination on time.
  • Furthermore, if the battery level drops too much, the driver might have to turn off the cabin heating to save enough energy to complete their journey.
  • If the weather is too cold, the passengers may start to feel uncomfortable and might even get sick.
  • If the battery charge is too low, the driver and all passengers in the car may experience range anxiety, which will affect the quality of their drive.
  • If people get stranded in the cold weather due to the low battery charge, the experience may change their perspective on electric cars.
  • As a result, they may revert to using gasoline-powered vehicles during the winter to stop themselves from encountering such situations again.
  • This decision will once again increase the driver’s carbon footprint and will increase the harmful emissions in the atmosphere.

Top Additional Tips You Can Follow to Stay Warm in an Idling Electric Car on a Cold Day

If you are about to prepare for a drive during the winter season, and the chances of you having to run the cabin heating while idling your electric car are high, it’s better to prepare other means of keeping yourself warm to reduce your dependence on the EV’s heat pump.

Some of the tips that will help you stay warm in a parked and turned-off electric car are as follows:

  • Keep warm thermal blankets and wrap them around yourselves to stay warm.
  • Wear extra layers of clothes and socks to keep the cold from reaching your body.
  • Pack a fully-charged portable electric heater.
  • Place a portable electric blanket on your seats to keep your bodies warm.
  • Pack hot drinks such as tea, coffee, or hot soup in a thermal flask. Sipping on the drink or soup will help keep you warm.
  • Pack some high-energy protein bars or chocolate snacks to keep your sugar levels high. This will prevent shivering and will keep you energized during the trip.
  • The passengers in the back seat of the electric car should sit close together to share their body heat and keep each other warm. 
How Long Can You Leave a Parked Electric Car’s Heater Running
How Long Can You Leave a Parked Electric Car’s Heater Running

Final Thoughts

An electric car is a fantastic luxury, especially in winter.

While your combustion engine vehicle may not be able to keep its heater running when the car is idling, an electric car will be able to offer you excellent cabin heating for multiple hours, with 80 to 100% energy efficiency.

All you need to do is be mindful of how and when you use the cabin heating to ensure your lithium-ion battery’s charging and range stay high throughout your drive.

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