Low temperatures are one of the worst enemies of electric vehicles because of the range losses that occur when the thermometer’s values go down. And of course, you need to make the cabin warm, which sips even more energy from the batteries, lowering the range further.

But Ford says there may be a better way to heat the interior than using the good old air conditioning system, which could lead to an increase in range of around five percent in temperatures as low as -7℃.

In a long-running study in Europe, the Blue Oval carmaker fitted a small fleet of electric Transit vans with heated elements on the armrests, floor mats, door panels, sun visors, and a panel below the steering wheel, to see if it would be more efficient than the aircon. And the results are encouraging.

Gallery: Ford Study Shows Heated Interior Panels Could Improve EV Range

According to Ford, the testing took place in winter and summer, on dry and wet roads, and in heavy rain and wind, using the vans for parcel deliveries, special goods deliveries, and a craftsman’s one-day job 217 miles away. And when everything was said and done, the maths said that the heading elements used 13 percent less energy than the aircon would have used, which led to an average range gain of five percent.

It's worth noting that most of the vehicles involved in the study made short trips where the driver had to open and close the door frequently, which lowered the temperature of the cabin quite a bit.

“We all know that if the doors or windows are opened when it is colder outside, the temperature inside a vehicle drops. This is especially true for delivery vans as drivers make frequent drop‑offs and the heat generated via aircon is lost more quickly, while heated surfaces stay warm,” said Markus Espig, systems engineer, Propulsion Systems Engineering, Ford Research and Innovation Centre Europe. “Reducing energy use not only improves range, it also cuts costs and helps ensure that the way we travel is more sustainable.”

The American carmaker says it’s also looking into developing other technologies that could offer energy-saving improvements in EVs, such as a heat exchanger that takes heat waste from the electric drive unit and uses it to heat the cabin and/or the battery pack, as well as a powertrain conditioning function that keeps the components of the electric drive unit at the most energy-optimal temperature.