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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Vehicles and shading

It is early fall here in Maine and we have already had our first frost, yet today temperatures peaked at almost 82°F.  This means that we are transitioning from leaving the windows open in our home to closing them up  at night and firing up woodstoves and propane heaters.  It also means that the decision of how to set the climate control in our Chevy Volt becomes interesting.  Unlike a regular gas powered vehicle the Volt uses precious battery energy to heat the cabin when in electric mode.  This means that I give a lot of thought about when to use the heater in our vehicle.  One strategy I use is to park the vehicle in the sun so that it is pre-warmed before I get in it.  But at this time of year it is challenging to decide where to park it since night can be chilly and day temperatures can be hot.  Shortly after we bought the Volt, I expanded the shed on the side of my workshop into a full-sized carport and that is where the vehicle sits today (photo above taken today).

Once we have exceeded the volt's battery range of 27 to 39 miles, the onboard gasoline powered "range extender" activates and at that point heating the vehicle becomes free due to the waste heat from the engine.   On many trips I will turn the heat down very low until the point at which the engine comes on in order to conserve energy and extend the electric range of the vehicle.

As we edge into colder weather I will be leaving the vehicle out in the sun unless a snowstorm is imminent.  On very cold days, or very hot ones, we can use the remote control from up to 100 feet away to activate the climate control system in the vehicle for 10 minutes while it is still plugged in to our charging station.  The advantage of this is that we are not draining the battery to pre-warm, or pre-cool the vehicle interior since it is using "shore power". 


These strategies can be applied to any vehicle to reduce the requirement for air-conditioning in the summer.  For instance when parking in a public parking lot in the summer I always look for the shadiest spot to reduce the need for energy hogging air-conditioning.