Increasing the range of an electric vehicle seems relatively simple at first glance — just add a larger battery. The packs are darned heavy, though, so automakers have become increasingly creative in finding ways to improve EV mileage capacity. Some of the more popular options are reducing drag with aerodynamic tweaks, implementing over-the-air updates to make the powertrain more efficient, and reducing heft with lightweight components like carbon fiber and aluminum.
German auto supplier Bosch is looking to increase range in another way by introducing a thermal management system for electric vehicles. Scheduled to be showcased at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show, the technology uses waste heat from the electrical components to control climate conditions in the cabin, enlisting a series of pumps and valves to circulate air as needed. According to Bosch, the system could result in up to a 25 percent increase in overall range in the right conditions.
“In battery-driven powertrains, heating and cooling play a significantly greater role than in gasoline or diesel engines, since without a combustion engine, the vehicle does not have a generous supply of heat,” the company explains. “For this reason, the passenger compartment is heated using a purely electrical system. The electricity it needs comes from the battery. This in turn impacts range: In winter and summer, roughly half the energy stored in the battery goes into regulating the temperature of the passenger compartment. “
One way to visualize the technology is by comparing it to a common refrigerator or air conditioner. To create cold air, the units use electricity which creates heat. In those applications, the waste energy is generally funneled through an exhaust tube or simply released into the air, but with Bosch’s system, the excess heat is used to take strain off the battery itself.
It’s a unique and frustratingly obvious way of recycling, but even without the system in play, there’s a good lesson to be learned here: If you’re worried about running out of juice in your EV, pack a sweater.