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Articles on Electric Vehicles

November 13, 2019
Paul Gipe

Do I Need Heated Seats in an EV?

Yes, heated seats in an Electric Vehicle are a must. And a heated steering wheel too, if you can get it. This is particularly true for limited-range EVs like the early Nissan Leaf, but it remains a useful feature for longer-range vehicles as well.

Heated seats use much less electricity than cabin heaters.

Petroleum-powered cars--gassers in the vernacular--use waste heat from the engine to warm the cabin in winter. EVs are far more efficient than gassers. They don't have "waste" heat to spare for warming the cabin and its passengers because they don't use an engine. Duh!

Heating an EV's passengers in winter requires electricity--a lot. That's electricity that could be used to propel the car. Most EVs use resistive heat, like space heaters in your home. Some more expensive EVs use heat pumps instead of simple resistive heat. Heat pumps are good down to very low temperatures and are more efficient. However, they still use a relatively large amount of electricity.

Heated seats use electricity too, but they use very little because they are in physical contact with the occupant's body. Heated steering wheels work the same way. They heat your hands directly and thus the heat transfer is more efficient than if you had only hot air blowing over them from the cabin heater.

Often time heated seats and steering wheel are the only heat you need. There will be times when you need to use the cabin heater to defrost the windshield, but in those cases you turn the defrost on and then, when you don't need it, you turn it off.

Driving an EV with heated seats allows you to use the electricity you saved by not using the cabin heater to drive the car. The traction battery's electricity isn't wasted on heating air that's a very poor conductor of heat to the passengers.

For those of us with lower back pain, heated seats are a boon. Our Chevy Bolt has both a heated seat and the lower part of the backrest is heated as well. The heat is soothing on a long winter drive.

It's a win-win. Heated seats save energy and make you more comfortable. Don't leave home with out them.

The following are links to where I mention heated seats in other articles and to forum threads where heated seats are discussed.

Driving the Chevy Bolt EV--Our Impressions

"During the winter the heated seats had me wondering about the state of my mental health. Was the electrically heated driver's seat automatically activated, I wondered. It felt that way, but the dash display said no. Hmm. After paging through the on line forums--and the owner's manual--I found that I could change a setting so the car would not turn the seat heater on automatically when I was pre-conditioning the car. If I want the seat heated, I will push a button to do so. I don't want the car to make those assumptions."

Sierra Club Activist Loves His Chevy Volt

"During these cold winter days, we sure love the heated seats!  What I once thought was a luxury, now seems de rigeur!"

Our Lease of a Chevy Bolt and What it Cost Us

"On 9 November 2017 we leased a Chevy Bolt EV for about the cost of a cell-phone plan. We chose the base model, the LT, with fast-charge option, heated front seats, and heated steering wheel. In our experience, these items should be standard on all electric vehicles (EVs) even in sunny southern California."

EV forums are a font of information on the value of and use for heated seats and a heated steering wheel.


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