Researchers explore infrared heating panels for EVs

A European consortium led by the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology is working on thermal management in electric vehicles as part of the MINDED research project. It is looking primarily at innovative infrared heating panels as a heat source.

Image: Iveco

The abbreviation MINDED stands for the very long project title “Thermal and energy Management for INcreased Driving range of an Electric minibus including improved user-centric Design and thermal comfort.” The consortium of eleven European partners wants to develop an electric eDaily minibus that, in contrast to the status quo, has a 20 per cent improved range at 0°C lifting temperature. “This is achieved by integrating extremely efficient infrared heating panels in the vehicle, which are controlled by an optimised thermal and energy operating strategy,” says the Austrian Institute of Technology, which, as consortium leader, also hosted the kick-off event in Vienna at the end of January.

Extreme temperatures significantly impact the range of electric vehicles, as air conditioning and heating consume additional energy. From the project partners’ perspective, this aspect is not only technically relevant but also directly impacts consumers’ acceptance of electric vehicles. The sticking point: “In contrast to conventional vehicles with combustion engines, which use the waste heat from the engine, electric cars have to draw the energy for heating directly from the battery, which can lead to significant losses in range,” according to the press release.

In today’s electric vehicles, PTC heaters are generally used to heat the interior. These heating elements are made of ceramic material and are based on so-called “positive temperature coefficient technology” (PTC). “The PTC material is characterised by the property of increasing its resistance as the temperature rises. However, this is accompanied by a significant energy requirement, which is drawn directly from the traction battery and therefore reduces the range,” explains the AIT.

MINDED aims to create an alternative – in the form of infrared heating panels, whose radiant heat will reduce the overall heat requirement. The project participants are also focusing on developing a new type of air conditioning system with heat pump mode (based on an oil-free compressor), AI-based predictions of driving behaviour and optimised insulation of the vehicle interior.

Project participants will measure the eDaily minibus from Iveco on an air-conditioned roller test bench to validate the results. In addition to AIT, the consortium includes Iveco, Rimac Technology, TU Darmstadt, the University of Zagreb, TU Vienna, IDIADA Automotive Technology, Villinger, Garrett Motion Czech Republic, Lead Tech and TU Vienna Automotive Test Centre GmbH. The total funding amounts to around 5 million euros.

“Our goal is not only to increase energy efficiency, but also to optimise comfort for drivers and passengers,” says AIT expert Thomas Bäuml, project manager of MINDED. “By integrating infrared heating panels and developing intelligent user interfaces, we are creating an innovative solution in the field of thermal management for electric vehicles. In this way, we want to make a decisive contribution to increasing the acceptance of electrically powered vehicles and thus ultimately contribute to environmentally friendly mobility in line with the European Green Deal.”


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