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EV driving range impacted by air conditioner, study finds

Switching off the air conditioner makes a combustion engine car more efficient. The air conditioner uses energy which requires fuel which in turn depletes your petrol. But what if you have an electric car?

A study conducted by electric vehicle battery firm Recurrent reveals that using the air conditioner to cool the interior of a car can reduce the driving range by up to 31 per cent. However, it still isn’t as exhaustive as using the heater.

From an earlier study, Recurrent determined that cold weather reduces EV driving range. Temperature drops affect certain EV models more than others; however, none are immune from its effects.

The company analysed battery readings from 7,500 cars across 65 pure electric and plug-in hybrid models to determine the summer driving range. Some models include the Tesla Model S, Nissan Leaf and Hyundai Kona Electric.

The study overlaps with the heat wave in Western North America, where temperatures were recorded at up to 54 degrees Celsius in certain areas.

air conditioner

It was revealed EVs running their air conditioner whilst the outside temperature was 37.7 degrees Celsius can impact driving range by up to 31 per cent on average, though the company notes that this is “based on extremely limited data”.

When the weather outside was 32.2 degrees Celsius, the range loss was tested at five per cent, while 26.7 degrees Celsius temperatures saw the range reduced by 2.8 per cent.

Recurrent concluded that the difference in the optimal interior car temperature for occupants and the external temperature is generally smaller in summer than in winter.

For example, during the summer months, occupants might want to change the interior temperature by approximately 10 degrees Celsius cooler compared to the outside, but in the winter the difference could be more than 20 degrees Celsius warmer.

Some EV models adopted heat pumps to reduce heating cabins’ energy drain in winter (Tesla Model 3, top-of-the-line Hyundai Ioniq 5) to harvest waste heat generated from the electric drive to heat the interior.


Tesla’s Model 3, Y, S and X sustained a stable and consistent driving range despite changing outside temperatures.

Nissan’s Leaf model began to see a decline in driving range at lower temperatures compared to its peers, at about 24 degrees Celsius the observed range tapers off. When the outside temperature was 32.2 degrees Celsius, the Leaf’s driving range declines by 22 per cent.

The outgoing Hyundai Kona Electric achieved better real-world range than the claimed EPA testing cycle, regardless of the weather conditions by as much as 30 per cent. While more testing is required in hot weather conditions, preliminary findings indicate that the driving range begins to dip starting at 33.8 degrees Celsius.

Recurrent’s study reveals that the impact temperature has on EV range varies depending on the efficiency of the model’s air conditioner and climate control system. However, cooling cabins in summer is usually less battery draining than warming them in winter.

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