Electric Car Heater Thermal Imaging

by Ben N on January 17, 2016

Lately, it’s been cold – which has me thinking quite a bit about electric cars and HEAT. I realized that I own a thermal camera, so maybe it was time to go into the world of VISUALIZING heat in an electric car!

My Mitsubishi iMiEV is a bit of an oddball when it comes to heating. The car maintains a liquid-based heating system as a heritage from the gasoline car it was based on. Instead of an engine, an electric heating element heats the fluid, which is passed to a heater core, where a fan blows the air into the passenger compartment. It’s not very efficient, and it takes a while to warm up.

I broke out my thermal camera and mounted it to the top of my video camera to be able to shoot both visible wavelength video AND thermal video at the same time.

To start with it was just over 0 degrees Farenheit – plenty cold enough in my book. It was a sunny day, and since the colors of the thermal images are all relative, even the dark parts of the car show up as warmer, as they soak up the sunlight.

IMG_7400Unfortunately, the coolant reservoir was the coldest thing under the hood! I set the car to run with the pre-heater, which warms up the car using electricity straight from the wall instead of the battery pack. I returned ten minutes later to see that the coolant reservoir was now the WARMEST thing under the hood. Also in the thermal video, I could clearly see the heater hoses running to and from the reservoir. What this really means is that a fair amount of heat is ESCAPING from there, and those hoses and the tank itself really should be insulated.

Inside the car, it was interesting to see what the 12V electric blanket looked like. The heated blanket has been working very well – it warms up fast and only uses 40 watts. That’s efficient use of energy and puts the heat where you want it – on the human, instead of just heating up the entire inside of the car.

The defroster also activates the heated side mirrors. They were at 70 degrees. The mirrors easily melt off snow and ice.

The heated driver’s seat was fun too see in thermal imaging too. The electric “butt-warmer” looks like a toaster element!


On the back of the car, the electric defroster on the rear window really lights up on the thermal image.

So what doesn’t get warm? The footwell. If I direct all the heat to my feet while driving, I get SOME heat there, but then the windshield and windows start to fog up. If I split the airflow between the defrost and heat modes, I simply don’t get enough heat to my feet. So far, cold toes have been the single biggest disadvantage to this car. (Of course, that wouldn’t be a problem in the summer, or a warmer state, like Florida…)

After quite a lot of reading on the MyiMiEV forum, I’ve decided that I want to add a “parking heater”. That is a coolant heater that runs on liquid fuel – usually diesel or gasoline. I’ve already ordered a 5KW heater designed to run on gasoline. I plan to run it on E85 or straight ethanol. It will be a few weeks until I get the heater delivered and installed, but when I do, I’ll make sure to take photos and videos!

Till next time, stay warm and charged up!


EDIT: PS: I DID end up installing a fuel-burning “parking-heater”. Read about it HERE.


{ 1 trackback }

Thermal Camera Shows Heat In Mitsubishi i-MiEV - Video - Inside EVs
February 13, 2016 at 1:03 pm

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jay January 19, 2016 at 3:12 pm

Thank you Ben for taking the time to picture what many have spent a thousand words on in the forum!

2 Lou February 16, 2016 at 9:11 am

Ben: I drove an I-MiEV for 2 years and in Philly that car was waaaay too cold for winter use. My commute was 32 miles roundtrip. I could run the heater full blast and get moderately warm, but the car was almost empty by the time I got back home. Not having a 240V set up at home, it meant that the car was for all intents and purposes parked for the night. After 2 winters of wearing several layers of heavy clothes, double gloves, 2 pairs of socks and even then just being barely acceptably warm, I turned the lease in and bought a used Volt. What a difference. Now I can be warm, use only a bit of gas on cold days. Yes, I prefer all BEV, but that was just not a realistic option. Loved my I-MiEV, but the Volt was what I needed.

Please post the installation of the heater. Tomas, from NJ did a similar installation and he swears by it. Why cannot Nissan, and other BEV OEM’s install these heaters for customers in the North?

3 Ben N February 16, 2016 at 11:22 am

Hi Lou!
I just finished a series of videos showing the installation of a fuel-burning heater for my iMiEV.
I completely agree with you on the heater both not being hot enough AND draining the battery on cold winter trips. So far, my car has been running great with the new heater. You can see those videos at: http://300mpg.org/imiev-heater-installation/

4 Clark October 12, 2016 at 3:12 am

what thermal camera did you use to record this?

5 BenN October 14, 2016 at 6:58 pm

It was a Flir ONE for iPhone 5.

6 Tony January 13, 2018 at 11:54 pm

Where do I find this heater

7 North East Heating Solutions Ltd June 25, 2019 at 12:34 am

Great idea. This is really helpful about the electric car heater, so glad I found your blog.

8 admin June 25, 2019 at 10:21 am

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