Air Con in EVs & Hybrids: Your Questions Answered

Jack Dreyer | Friday 8th September 2023 12:30pm

A person holding their hand up to the air conditioning vent in their EV.

While there are many similarities between regular and electric vehicles, there are plenty of other features that have fundamental differences batteries, fuel, and tyres being some of them. When it comes to air conditioning, it is a little more complicated to outline the differences between EVs, hybrids, and petrol or diesel cars.

However, above all else, air con is certainly more important in EVs than regular cars. Why? Lets find out.

If youre considering getting an electric or hybrid vehicle, or are curious to learn more about climate control features of your current EV, read on to have all your questions answered. From the impact on battery life to the importance of temperature regulation in these kinds of vehicles, the Kwik Fit team have produced this handy blog to tell you all you need to know.

Is air con more important in hybrids & EVs?

As mentioned above, the main point of difference between regular vehicle air con and the air con in hybrids or EVs is the importance. Stick with us, here we know this sounds like a null point but theres actually a lot of science that comes with it.

In electric and hybrid vehicles, air conditioning is so much more than a nice-to-have it plays an essential role in whats known as thermal management.

What is thermal management?

Thermal management refers to the technology and processes that are used to keep a system like a battery within its ideal operating temperature range.

In electronic devices especially, sometimes things can overheat and cause slow or poor performance or, in some rare cases, complete system failure. So, its essential to keep temperatures down. And this is where thermal management comes in.

Usually, thermal management dissipates excess heat (in the form of thermal energy) away from a device or system to control temperatures. In some systems, this process takes the form of liquid coolants, in others insulating materials. But, in EVs and hybrid vehicles, air conditioning plays an innovative and important role in this process.

The Max AC setting is switched on to aid thermal management in an EV.

How does air con aid thermal management?

The air conditioning in electric vehicles works to cool the battery, supporting an effective charging process and also contributing significantly to EV battery life. With this being said, getting your electric vehicle serviced regularly, with a focus on its air con unit, is not only for comfort but also to help maintain vehicle health and value.

Book in for a full EV service with Kwik Fit today If youre concerned about your EVs health.

Now that weve established why air con is more important in EVs, lets tackle the other questions we get asked about air con and these vehicles on a regular basis.

Should EVs have their air con regassed more?

Based on how fundamental air con is to electric and hybrid vehicles, it is essential that your cars air conditioning unit is working at its best and to do this, it will need to be regassed regularly.

Electric vehicles use the same type of refrigerant gas as internal combustion engine vehicles, with the majority requiring the newer R1234YF type of gas. Luckily for you, we have over 400 centres equipped to carry out air con recharge on electric and hybrid vehicles.

Air con & EV battery life

The battery life of electric vehicles is a common source of anxiety for drivers and often the reason why many people choose not to purchase fully electric vehicles.

It seems there is still a lot of work to be done in the way of reassuring the public about the reliability and durability of EV batteries. So, well try our best to put your mind at ease now.

Does air con drain the battery in EVs?

As you may well have expected, having the air con on does drain the battery faster than if you didnt have it on but not by much. Research from Perrys suggests that the battery is drained about 11% faster when the air con is on than when it isnt.

Additionally, this is only a ballpark figure, liable to change because of factors like:

  • How intense the air con is.
  • How long you have the air con turned on for.

However, as weve said above, due to its crucial role in thermal management, air conditioning can actually help to extend EV battery life.

Does air con reduce range in an EV?

Similarly to the above question, there is widespread public concern about the capability and battery capacity of electric vehicles. So, naturally, wed expect to receive questions about any factors likely to reduce their range. In fact, according to The National Travel Attitudes Survey, 16% of respondents said they would not be confident at all making a long journey in an electric vehicle.

Unfortunately, though, the honest answer is that, yes, air con does reduce the range of an EV but, again, only marginally. In the grand scheme of things, if youre thinking about EV range, its not the air con you should be worrying about. Interestingly, air con isnt actually the most wasteful feature in EVs. In fact, heating is said to reduce battery range around 17% faster when turned on full blast.

Other luxuries are even worse. Lets say its a winter morning and you're running late before work but your windscreen is frozen over. What would you prefer, to use an ice scraper or make the most of the demister? Lets add heated seats in there too we know what wed rather. Using these features causes a reduction in battery range by about 15%.

A battery warning light on in an electric vehicle.

Can you charge an EV whilst using the air con?

Ok, back to summer; you have a hot car and you know that air con does reduce the range of your EV. What can you do? A workaround would be to whack the air con on for a few minutes while your car is still charging to lower the in-car temperature by a few degrees. But can you do this?

While everyone knows it isnt safe to leave a regular petrol or diesel car running while fuelling up, electric vehicles can definitely be on when charging. It is safe for you to sit in them, turn them on, and use their in-car features while being hooked up to a charge point.

This means that internal systems such as air con, any stereo systems, and heated seats will work while charging. In fact, using air con in this way means that any energy used is being drawn from the grid instead of your battery. The only thing that wont work, however, is the drive chain. For safety, the drive chain is disabled when electric vehicles are charging, preventing you from being able to pull away and cause harm to the charging point.

Keep your EVs air con healthy

So, now that we better understand just how vital air conditioning is to electric and hybrid vehicles (on account of thermal management), the need for maintaining air con health in these vehicles becomes clear.

To keep on top of your air con maintenance, let the experts at your local Kwik Fit centre help. Book in for a Free Air Con Check, regas, or debug today. And, in the meantime, stay in the loop with the latest electric vehicle and air conditioning advice on our blog.

Any facts, figures and prices shown in our blog articles are correct at time of publication.

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