Kia Motors, in getting ready to bring its just formally unveiled Soul EV electric offering to market, is talking up in depth what it considers one of the key features of this car. Not something you see a lot of automotive journalists talking about, but to the automaker the advancements in the vehicle’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) technologies seem to be a pretty big deal.
Why, might you ask, would this be something worth mentioning? It has a lot to do with the energy suck HVAC can be to an all-electric car. Kia engineers, in developing the Soul EV, determined that, in a worst case scenario, the maximum use of HVAC under extreme cold conditions could potentially reduce an electric vehicle’s effective range by up to 50 percent.
To address this, Kia said in an essay which we present below, its people
“implemented four new HVAC technologies designed to reduce energy usage in the Soul EV – a highly efficient new heat pump, smart air induction control, individual ventilation (for driver only) and scheduled ventilation.
The new heat pump utilises waste heat from the air-conditioning and electrical systems to improve the energy efficiency of the HVAC system and improve the car’s ability to efficiently heat up the cabin, thus minimising electricity consumption from the battery.
The system, made up of a compressor, evaporator and condenser, allows the Soul EV’s HVAC system to harness the waste heat given off by electrical components. Instead of relying entirely on the electricity from the battery to heat the cabin to the driver’s desired temperature, the heat pump recycles heat energy emitted by the electronics to increase the efficiency of the heating and ventilation systems.
By reducing the load on the battery, the heat pump cuts energy consumption from the HVAC system and increases the overall driving range of the Soul EV.
Working in conjunction with the heat pump, the Soul EV is also fitted with a new smart air intake control system, which monitors and controls the amount of air entering and exiting the vehicle, as well as the humidity level in the cabin.
Air intake control recycles the air that has already been heated or cooled by the HVAC system, then carefully introduces the optimum amount of fresh air to the cabin. By better controlling the air flow inside the vehicle, the HVAC system is able to cool or heat the cabin more efficiently and minimise the use of the heating or air-conditioning during a drive. The system relies on a humidity sensor, temperature control and an intake actuator to monitor and control the in-flow of fresh air to the cabin.
The Soul EV is fitted with a new individual ventilation system – the first time such technology has been introduced to any production vehicle. This reduces energy consumption by only providing ventilation and heating to the driver, completely shutting off heating and ventilation to the foot-well and dashboard ventilation on the passenger side. This is in contrast to existing vehicles on the road, in which closing the vents merely diverts hot or cold air through other vents in the car while energy consumption remains the same.
The individual ventilation system, activated using the ‘driver only’ button on the dashboard, minimises HVAC energy use when driving alone, resulting in a more efficient heating system and greater driving range.
A first in a Kia vehicle, the Soul EV is equipped with a new pre-conditioning or scheduled ventilation system. Accessing the car’s heating system through the car’s HMI interface, users can schedule their vehicle to pre-heat or pre-cool the cabin 30 minutes before they start the car.
The system works while the car is plugged in and reduces load on the battery when the Soul EV starts running. Instead, the cabin is cooled or heated using power from the electric grid, ensuring the vehicle is already at the driver’s preferred temperature before departure.”
To make sure this intense focus on the HVAC technology will actually mean something at the end of the day, the automaker is doing validation work on the fringe of the Arctic Circle in northern Sweden. It is here, where winter temperatures can get as low as -31°F, that engineers will rigorously be able to test the performance of what they’ve created.