Improving Heat Pump Value – Volkswagen’s In-house Solution
Volkswagen is developing a new in-house designed R744 heat pump refrigerant and coolant thermal module. This new optional heat pump module shows that VW is making major value improvement through cost reduction. The picture below shows the original design on right, new design on left.
Picture Source: Volkswagen
At Volkswagen’s 2023 Tech Day in February, Thomas Schmall announced in-house development of an integrated refrigerant and coolant thermal module. This R744 (CO2) heat pump module appears to use the same or similar components as the first-generation design but with manifolds to eliminate components and reduce cost, mass, space, and assembly labor compared to the original design. The design incorporates coolant and refrigerant manifolds, plus presumably heat exchangers, to eliminate coolant and refrigerant lines. Furthermore, the design greatly reduces fluid connections and includes direct mount pump(s) and a multi-way coolant valve. The module also appears to use seven rather than eight costly refrigerant valves.
Volkswagen’s press release implies that there is a performance efficiency improvement with the new design, but the pathways were not detailed. Volkswagen stated previously that they are developing software improvements to improve heat pump effectiveness which would presumably be incorporated into this new design.
We assume that Volkswagen will start using the new thermal module soon. It does not appear that Volkswagen is changing its heat pump marketing approach as an option or standard for certain models and trim lines. In fact, the New ID.3 slated for launch in Q4 2024 includes an optional heat pump which was reportedly suspended for current generation ID.3 vehicles in January 2023.
Some OEMs are taking more responsibility for thermal system and module design. Like Tesla and BYD, VW is embracing in-sourcing of integrated thermal module design to improve BEV value and competitiveness.
ITB provides insights into changing vehicle technologies, regulations, and markets
ITB gathers input from the automotive value chain regarding unmet needs and innovations for improving thermal system value. In our 2023 research, ITB dives deeply into markets, designs, and materials for electrified vehicle thermal management, range improvement, and rapid charging. This includes classifying design variation across regions, vehicle powertrain types, and OEMs.