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

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

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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