Electric vehicles are better than internal combustion engine (ICE) equivalents in many respects, but one challenge they face is providing heat in cold weather. While ICEs are far less efficient than electric motors, they do provide an ample source of waste heat. EVs have long relied on resistance heaters that draw power from the battery to heat the cabin. But there is a better solution, the heat pump which General Motors GM +2.3% is incorporating as part of its Ultium energy recovery system that will be standard on all of its new EVs.
Unlike a resistance heater, a heat pump doesn’t generate heat, it just transfers thermal energy from one place to another. They utilize refrigerants much like an air conditioner as the transfer medium, but they can do both heating and cooling. Essentially, the heat pump gathers thermal energy from a source and redirects it.