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Saturday, January 26, 2013


We had the coldest streak in a couple of years this week. Unfortunately the cabin heater in my ActiveE decided it was no longer going to work on the coldest night!
When an electric car owner pulls up to a public charging station and finds a gas car parked there blocking the access to the plug we call it being "iced". ICE is an acronym for Internal Combustion Engine, which is what powers a gas car. This week I was iced in a couple of ways, however not by a blocked charger.

4 degrees Fahrenheit. Not fun. 
First, it's been cold. Make that REAL cold. Now maybe not REAL cold for the folks who live in Fargo, North Dakota or Manitoba, Canada, but for us here in New Jersey when we get into single digit temperatures, it's REAL cold. It was so cold, the heating system in my restaurant was struggling to keep the front dining room warm and I had to get some portable heaters just to take the chill out of the air and make it comfortable for the patrons. Then, as I was driving home from work on the coldest night of the week, suddenly I felt the cabin of the ActiveE getting cold so I turned up the heat a bit and it only got colder. Well, the cabin heater decided it no longer wanted to work so pretty quickly the car went from comfortable to really cold. 

The seat heaters do work well!
Luckily the seat heaters were still working and after a few minutes they had my body nice and warm even thought the air temperature in the cabin must have been under 40 degrees. I got home and plugged in and hoped that the next day everything would work and I'd just write it off as one of the ActiveE's quirks. Unfortunately that wasn't the case. The heater didn't work the next day either so I bundled up, put on gloves and brought along a blanket to throw over my lap (a little trick carried over from my MINI-E days). Even though it was really cold again - about 10 degrees, I was pretty comfortable with the seat heaters and dressed up warmly. I knew I wouldn't be able to take the car to my dealer that day because I had a really busy schedule all day. The next day I did bring the car to JMK BMW in Springfield, NJ and they gave me a nice blue 328ix as a loaner.

My 328ix loaner
So now I'm back to driving on gas until the heater gets repaired or replaced. Hopefully it won't be too long, but the ActiveE parts aren't normally stocked items and can take a while for the dealer to get. In gas cars the waste heat from the engine is used for cabin heating. That's why it takes a while for the heat to initially come on when you get into a cold car. The engine needs to warm up first before it can provide you with heat. In electric cars there is no engine to capture the waste heat from so they have to have an actual electric heater. The advantage of that is it comes on blowing hot air as soon as you get in the car. You don't have to wait for anything to warm up. However these heaters are typically not very energy efficient and by using them you do cut into the range of the car because they do consume a considerable amount of energy. The electric seat heaters use much less energy that the cabin heaters do which is why it makes sense to use them instead of the cabin heater as much as possible and why heated seats are usually standard equipment on electric cars.

So now I'm driving an ICE, in the snow and ice, after a week of colder-than-ice weather. I guess this is all there is to say...


  1. Hope you get your car back soon Tom. I love heated seats and won't consider buying a car without them.

  2. So this begs the question, will the heat from the range extending motor on the new i3 be captured to assist cabin heating in any way?