Autovolt Magazine

Update 8: Not Just Hot Air

October has landed and, with it, some familiar routines. The Outlander has become filthy almost overnight, an iOS update has wreaked havoc with my CarPlay apps (Waze!) and I’m finding cabin pre-heating is a must-have feature.

I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here, but there are plenty of reasons why Joe and Jo Public would find a plug-in more help than hinderance in day-to-day life. It’s quieter, it’s smoother in city traffic and (provided you’ve got somewhere to charge it overnight) it’s fully fuelled every morning – and that’s before we get into reduced local pollution and running costs.

However, the comfort factor of pre-conditioning is not to be sniffed at. When you’re stepping outside in the dark, and it’s cold enough to see your breath, few things make those first minutes in the car more welcoming than a toasty interior with de-misted windows. In 4hS spec (now essentially replaced by the new Exceed trim), the Outlander includes a heated steering wheel and front seats, but pre-heating means they’re unnecessary if my journey starts at home.

Of course, some petrol and diesel cars can do this. Cabin (and engine block) pre-heating, usually only popular in Northern European markets, isn’t a new technology but it often relies on a fuel-burning heater or the engine firing up. The Outlander has an electric heater and (as long as it’s plugged in) draws mains energy to power it, which means it’s not putting out any local emissions. It’s pretty easy to set up too, with settings for individual days allowing you to heat the car ready for the commute to and from work, the school runs, or just as a one-off on the weekend.

Comfort aside, this is good for maximising range. Warming the cabin uses a lot of energy, which is why a lot of EVs have wire-heated windscreens and automatic warm-up modes intelligently using elements in the seats and wheel. If it’s cold, I’m losing two or three miles of EV range bringing the cabin up to temperature, even before the seasonal reduction as the winter sets in. OK, I’ve the engine as a fall-back option so it’s not a massive crisis if I lose a bit of range, but pre-conditioning helps extend the distance I can cover without using any fuel. That’s a good thing.

Autumnal weather brings wet coats and shoes into the cabin and, while British summertime is cool enough for Eco mode’s blower settings to cope with, I’m now finding I need air conditioning every day to stop the windows misting with the kids on board. I’ve done plenty of winter EV driving with a microfibre to hand, cycling A/C on and off to keep the windows clear on the motorway. Ever-growing ranges – whether assisted by a petrol engine or a larger battery – are only going to make this easier to manage.