What is electric car preconditioning?

Jesse Crosse

4 Dec 2023

Electric car preconditioning may sound like something you set on your washing machine, but preconditioning has nothing to do with cleaning your EV, it’s about comfort, safety and getting the best from the battery. Preconditioning relates to three things, defrosting, pre-warming or cooling the cabin before you start your journey and on some EVs, managing the temperature of the battery to maintain it’s good health in extremely cold or hot weather conditions or prior to a rapid or ultra-rapid charge. 

Cabin preconditioning

Most drivers have experienced going to their car for an early start on a freezing cold day and then having to spend half an hour scraping ice from the windows before setting off. Preconditioning the cabin of an electric car simply means being able to set the cabin heating to warm the car before leaving the house so when you’re ready to drive away, the windscreen and windows should be fully de-iced and de-misted and the cabin warm and cosy. The opposite applies on hot days when preconditioning can start the air conditioning to cool the cabin.

How does cabin preconditioning work?

Exactly how you set cabin preconditioning up varies depending on the make of car, but it’s pretty simple to do via the  infotainment system and smartphone app. For example, in the car’s settings, you can specify the day and times you want the climate control to start or it may ask you to set the time of departure. In that case, based on the outside temperature, the car will know when to start the climate control so that the cabin temperature you’ve set is reached by the time you leave. You can also start the climate control manually and adjust settings at any time from an EV’s app.

Tesla Model S app iPhone Most electric cars will have an app to help you set up precondtioning timers

Will using pre-conditioning affect the range?

If the EV is connected to the mains for charging then the electricity used to heat or cool the cabin is drawn from the mains to precondition the cabin and not the battery. This means that the battery can still be charged to 100% and the range will be unaffected when you start your journey. 

What else can cabin preconditioning do? 

Getting the car’s cabin warmed up and the car de-frosted might be the thing we’re most interested in, but some EVs let you configure preconditioning in more detail. For example, if your car has a heated steering wheel or seats, it can be possible to include or exclude them from the preconditioning menu and also change that whenever you feel like it via the smartphone app. 

What is battery preconditioning?

Like all batteries, EV high voltage batteries are sensitive to temperature, especially the cold. For example, an EV battery won’t charge as quickly on extremely cold days and for rapid DC charging especially, it’s preferable if the battery is brought to the optimum temperature first. 

Some cars are equipped with battery heaters for cold temperatures that work automatically in background and others have more sophisticated battery preconditioning systems that can anticipate a forthcoming rapid charge. If a Porsche Taycan driver is using the factory satnav and schedules a DC rapid charging stop during a trip, then the battery will automatically be heated or cooled to reach the optimum internal temperature by the time it reaches the charger. Tesla’s have a similar feature called “intelligent preconditioning” which preconditions the battery to suit the power of the particular Supercharger the driver is visiting. 

Cars like the Taycan will warm the battery before you reach a charger

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