Volvo fits its EV’s with bio-ethanol powered heater
By Darren Quick
March 28, 2011
It's no secret that ambient temperature can have a significant impact on the performance of battery electric vehicles and temperature differences can therefore have a major impact in the range of said EVs. To combat this Volvo has equipped its C30 Electric (which started out as the Recharge Concept) with three climate systems including a bio-ethanol powered heater and put the vehicle through a barrage of tests in the rough winter conditions found in the automaker's Swedish homeland.
On top of the stringent testing regime Volvo exposes all its ICE vehicles to, the company has also developed several new test methods for its EVs to ensure they run smoothly in temperatures as low as -20° Celsius (-4° F). These include tests on the three climate systems found in the C30 Electric – one to supply heating and cooling to the passengers, another to cool or warm the battery pack when necessary, and a third that water-cools the electric motor and power electronics.
To provide heating for vehicle occupants in cold weather without compromising the battery driving range, Volvo has fitted it's the C30 Electric with a bio-ethanol powered heater. While it is possible to run the climate control unit on electricity from the batteries with an immersion heater warming up the coolant in the climate unit, the system uses the ethanol-powered heater by default when battery capacity is needed to extend the range of the vehicle. However, the driver is able to program and control the climate unit to suit the trip and use the batteries to power the system for short trips.
The C30's ethanol tank can carry 14.5 liters (3.83 US Gal), which provides up to 30 hours of heating comfort in freezing temperatures with the system burning through about 0.5 liters (0.13 US Gal) an hour. Volvo says it has fitted all it's electric vehicles with the bio-ethanol powered heater system.