Volkswagen Gains Efficiency with CO2 Heat Pump in Electric SUV

German car manufacturer Volkswagen attributes the efficiency gains and resulting improved range of its first electric SUV coupe, the ID.5, to the CO2 (R744) heat pump used for its mobile heating and air-conditioning.

Released in November last year, the (Intelligent Design) ID.5 follows the ID.3 and ID.4 ranges released in 2020, the first of Volkswagen’s electric fleet vehicles to feature a CO2 heat pump for HVAC needs.

“Sustainability has top priority: alongside net carbon-neutral delivery of the ID.5, Volkswagen has also assumed responsibility for climate protection in its choice of refrigerant,” said Volkswagen on its website. “The climate impact of the refrigerant R744 (carbon dioxide) used to generate heated or cooled air is lower than that of fluorinated refrigerants.”

Benefits of heat pumps

Heat pumps in general are a great match for electric vehicles because, unlike a combustion-based vehicle, the drive components of an electric vehicle do not produce sufficient waste heat in order to adequately warm the vehicle interior during the winter, the manufacturer said. Thus, deriving heat from a heat pump produces “a range benefit compared with electric vehicles without heat pump,” according to Volkswagen.

“The power requirement for heating the interior at exterior temperatures of less than 0°C [32°F] is up to 40% less than in a vehicle without an energy-efficient heat pump,” said Volkswagen. “The reduced power requirement also reduces power consumption and thus increases battery capacity, which has a positive effect on the vehicle range.”

In addition, CO2’s thermodynamic properties are seen as offering a competitive advantage in terms of energy efficiency in heat pumps compared to other refrigerants. It is estimated to increase driving ranges of electric cars by up to 38%, according to Sanden International, which makes CO2 compressors for mobile air-conditioning systems.

Anders Mønsted, Business Development Manager, Industrial Refrigeration at CO2 refrigeration system manufacturer Advansor, who recently replaced his diesel car with the ID.5, praised its CO2 heat in a LinkedIn post that got a lot of reaction from the global industry. “It is a beautiful and great car. Additionally it has a hidden secret, that I really value. It uses R744, natural CO2 as a fluid in the heat pump/AC unit. It replaces a flourine chemical (HFO/HFC).”

Volkwagen has established what it calls its ACCELERATE strategy to transition to electric vehicles. “By 2030, at least 70% of Volkswagen’s unit sales in Europe are expected to come from electric-only vehicles – that is equivalent to more than one million vehicles,” the company said in a statement.  In North America and China, the goal is for electric vehicles to account for at least 50% of unit sales. The company is planning to become climate-neutral by 2050 at the latest.


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