When the Chevrolet Volt goes on sale at the end of 2010, expect heated seats to be on the list of standard equipment. That may not sound like big news for a car priced around $40,000 (before $7500 federal tax credit) but tush-warming thrones could be key to extending electric driving range when every mile counts.
Engineers say that, in cold weather, it takes the same amount of energy to warm the cabin as it does to move a Volt down the road. While a gas-engine vehicle produces incredible amounts of waste heat that can be used to warm the passenger compartment, a Volt running in electric mode will need to create heat using electricity from the battery—electricity that would otherwise be adding to the vehicle’s electric range.
Heating air and blowing it into the cabin is a relatively inefficient way to warm occupants, and the Volt team claims that a heated seat leads passengers to rely less on the blower and reduce the total energy consumption used to control the cabin climate. Chevrolet hasn’t confirmed that heated seats will be standard equipment, but in an effort to approach the 40-mile electric range in cold weather, such a feature appears to be inevitable.