Being a die-hard Minnesotan, I’ve developed some habits that I need to break. Many of these are stubborn/stupid habits that simply come from getting old and always doing things the old way.

One of them is my insistence on not using seat warmers in cars. Mostly because my first encounter with them was unknowing. I was riding in someones fancy car (Lexus) and it detected that a butt was in the passenger seat. Combined with the outdoor temperature, the climate computer decided it should activate the heated seat. About a minute later I was wondering if I had peed my pants 😳🍑🔥

I decided then and there that it would be the first and last time I used a heated seat… But was it really?

Driving my Chevy Bolt in winter, the range is reduced due to several factors: batteries don’t like the cold, the factory heater is a resistance unit instead of an efficient heat pump like on the newer Teslas. Combined with the fact that my car is currently limited to an 80% charge, the juice gets used up much faster in the winter.

Heated seats & steering wheel vs. Cabin heater

I still love this car, and I’ve come to terms that I won’t be doing any winter road trips in it this year. But even with long-ish drives around town, I want to know my options for energy conservation. My two best friends in this department are the heated seats and the heated steering wheel.

Someone over on the ChevyBolt.org forums did the research and found the consumption of them:

One Seat:
– High 35W
– Medium 28W
– Low 20W

Steering Wheel: 47W

Running both full blast for one person is less than one hundred watts 💯

Compare those numbers to the resistance style heater that is used to heat the cabin – it can use up to 9kW. That’s 9,000 watts y’all – enough power for a small rock concert 🎸 It works well – the cabin heats quickly, especially compared to an internal combustion engine. It’s just sort of a power hog… granted it won’t be using 9kW all of the time, but it will use that much to get up to your desired temperature.

Reducing heater usage

There are a few things you can do to reduce the mega energy sap from the heater:

Pre-heat the car while it’s plugged in

My 240V charger can deliver 40 amps of power to the vehicle, that’s 9kW (240V x 40A = 9600W). The Bolt will use up to 7.6kW of that (32A). If the car is plugged in while pre-conditioning, the Bolt will use as much of the AC power it can. This will pull at most 1-2kW from the battery even if the heater is going full-tilt. Result: pre-heating while plugged in won’t take away any range from your trip, plus your car is toasty warm when you get in.

Use the heated seats and steering wheel

I’ve learned to love the heated seats and steering wheel. You’ll be surprised how much a difference it makes to heat the surfaces your body touches. The wheel is like holding a hot cup of coffee, which has some sort of lizard-brain effect on your perceived comfort.

The climate controls will guess how high to turn the seat warmers on. Despite my earlier protests, I now find myself turning the seat heater up an additional setting so I can turn down the cabin heater a few degrees.

Turn the heater off

I don’t normally do this, but I will if I really need to conserve range or it’s not terribly cold out. The difficult part to manage when the heater is off is window fogging. Face masks help with moisture from our breath – what a strange time we live in. Wet hair from a recent shower certainly won’t help either. Even a cup of coffee can make things worse, but I have to draw the line somewhere! ☕

I really wish there was such thing as a heated foot plate. I think I could go further with heater off longer if my feet had a little heat 🥾🔥Maybe I’ll get some heated socks or boots to see how much it helps.

One thought on “Learning to love the seat warmer

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