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Could 2013 Nissan Leaf Use Renault Zoe’s Heat Pump For Cold Weather?

 
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Renault Zoe Cold Weather

Renault Zoe Cold Weather

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If you drive a 2011-12 Nissan Leaf, you’ll know that keeping your car warm in winter can drop its range by as many as 30 miles, due to the inefficiency of the its coolant-to-air heater.

Starting with the 2013 Leaf, Nissan has already promised a much more efficient heater that will better the 2011/12 Leaf’s cold-weather performance by 20 to 25 miles. 

So far, Nissan hasn’t said what the new heater will be, but partner company Renault has just detailed information about the ultra-efficient heating system in its Zoe Electric Car. 

Since Renault-Nissan’s electric car projects are so interwoven, could the Leaf be getting the same ultra-efficient heater? 

According to Renault’s own blog, the 2012 Zoe electric car features a reversible heat pump. Capable of producing 2 kilowatts of cooling or 3 kilowatts of heat from 1 kilowatt of electricity, it makes it possible to heat or cool the Zoe without dramatically reducing range. 

2012 Nissan Leaf winter test

2012 Nissan Leaf winter test

Enlarge Photo

That’s because heat pumps use a small amount of energy to move heat from one location to another. 

When it’s hot, the heat pump in the Renault Zoe works a little like a refrigerator, cooling the interior of the car and transferring excess heat from inside to the outside air. 

When it’s cold, the heat pump is reversed, taking any heat energy from the outside air and transferring it into the car, warming the interior.

This is possible thanks to a compressed refrigerant gas inside the heat pump that stays at a very low temperature, meaning it is always colder than the air it is pulling into the system and therefore can always absorb heat energy.

2012 Nissan Leaf winter test

2012 Nissan Leaf winter test

Enlarge Photo

And because it is transferring heat rather than generating it, the heat pump is much quicker to warm the interior of the Renault Zoe than a traditional resistive heater.

Based on Renault’s efficiency calculations for the heat pump in the Renault Zoe and Nissan’s own statements regarding the efficiency of the 2013 Leaf’s heater, we think it’s likely that Nissan is using the same heat pump as the Zoe to heat and cool the 2013 Leaf.

Without any confirmation from Nissan however, we’ll have to wait a little while longer to find out for certain.

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Comments (10)
  1. That's one nice thing about living in south Texas. If I need "unscheduled" heat I just roll my '11 Leaf out into the sun and it's warm in 5 minutes, even in 40 degree weather. I use the mains/wall power and the climate control timer to heat the cabin 15 minutes prior to our daily 07:20 jaunt to drop our boy off at school. We don't have and don't need seat heaters either.
     
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  2. A better solution is for Nissan to sell re-badged ZOE as the 2013 Nissan LEAF. More range, faster charger, better looks and more efficient HVAC, all in one package.
     
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  3. Heat pump/AC system is certainly more efficient and it is great that Nissan is using that system. But the efficiency of the system drop as the outside temperature drops. I wonder how well the system performs in below freezing temperature.
     
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  4. Very interesting.
    I found this plot for one home system that shows a COP (coefficient of performance, higher numbers are better) of

    1.75 when it is really cold (-19C or -2F)

    At higher temperatures, COP is
    3.5 when it is 15 C (60F) outside

    It is always a win over resistive heating which has a COP of 1.

    But it is unfortunate that the efficiency drops when you need it the most.
     
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  5. Forgot the link.
    http://www.mibnet.se/house/HeatPumps/NIBE2020HeatPumpCOPCurves.html

    Not that this is necessarily the same performance at the one in an EV, but it gives some idea.
     
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  6. Well, it is true the heat pump will always be better than resistive heating in terms of efficiency. The issues are you are adding few more moving parts and it is potentially less reliable due to the compressed system, pump, valves..etc. Another down side is that you can always change compression point and refrigrants to "optimize" for cold weather, but then its warmer weather (A/C) performance will drop...

    Even at the ~ 2x efficiency (1KW in, 2KW out), it is still relatively low heat due to the fact that you are so efficient in the EV that there aren't much wasted heat and everything you use are being taken out of your range.

    This is where "Plugin Hybrids" make more sense than a conventional EV...
     
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  7. Looks like the EV1 had a heat pump.

    Only took 15 years for Nissan to realize it ;)

    http://www.evchargernews.com/CD-A/gm_ev1_web_site/innovate/innovate_hea.htm
     
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  8. What about Tesla Model S? I know they are using liquid battery cooling/heating system. But not sure about the rest...
     
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  9. It looks like the folks waiting for the 2013 Leaf will get everything Nissan promised and more! Way to go Nissan! Now watch the numbers on the 2012 model continue to be abysmal, and watch the media proclaim that the Leaf is a failure. Why would anyone buy a 2012 Leaf in late August when the 2013 model is just around the corner?
     
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  10. It is confirmed that the 2013+ Nissan Leafs have a heatpump option. I wonder if the evaporator of the heatpump system is able to defrost itself after icing up when driving down the road on a long trip. You see, the evaporator behind the grille of the car gets freezing cold if the weather is cold enough causing water to freeze to it. On a humid day it'll completely clog up after some time, drastically reducing heat output of the heatpump system. Maybe after only 30-45 minutes. There has to be a cycle to heat up the evaporator to melt off the ice.
     
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