Extending Electric Vehicle Range Through Heat Management Solutions

Increased driving range. Every electric vehicle owner wants it. Every electric vehicle manufacturer strives to achieve it.

Many factors impact electric vehicle (EV) range, which makes for a delicate balancing act for OEMs and suppliers. From vehicle aerodynamics, battery size and weight, to battery power drains from features consumers expect like infotainment systems, power windows, and automatic locks and seats, manufacturers are looking at every possible way to increase the drive range of EVs and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV).

One of the least efficient energy usages in vehicles is in the heating and cooling system. Finding ways to incorporate passive heat management solutions, which work regardless of whether the car is in motion, can dramatically help increase electric vehicle range.

Reducing Heat Transfer with Thermal Insulation

A great place to start is the vehicle's thermal insulation. High performance thermal insulation reduces the amount of heat transfer between surfaces and helps maintain the cabin temperature at the desired level. This makes the vehicle more comfortable for both the driver and passengers, while using less energy from the battery.

BASF presented its new high performance insulation material, called Slentite™, to the public in 2013. Slentite is an organic polyurethane-based aerogel panel that does the same job as conventional materials in half the space. Maintaining its durability, this foam could be incorporated into the door frames, the hood and the roof of the vehicle, which previously was not a viable option based on the thickness of the foam.

Slentite™: New High-performance insulation material for customized climate management. Slentite: The new high-performance insulation material for customized climate management.

In the summertime, these thermal insulation foams work like an insulated refrigerator - keeping cool air in and hot air out. And vice versa for the colder months. By using less power from the battery to create the perfect in-cabin climate, the range (or mileage for vehicles with conventional powertrains) of the car is increased without reducing the driver's comfort.

The Energy Savings

BASF and AVL conducted a simulation on an internal combustion engine to determine estimated fuel savings by applying BASF heat management technologies, like Slentite aerogel insulation. While the fuel consumption savings are dependent on the driving and weather conditions, a fully heat-managed vehicle can realize a five to 12 percent decrease in fuel consumption.  It is expected that the energy savings are comparable for electric vehicles as well.