No cooling - fan races while charging

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Jul 21, 2022
It's that time of the year again when my 2017 Ford Focus Electric goes from being a dream to being a nightmare. :-(

Temperatures here in Texas have been in the 90s for a few days, and that means no a/c. As I approach a red light with the a/c on but warm air blowing into the cabin, I try the trick of putting the car into park, turning it off, opening and closing the door, and restarting. Sometimes this will result in ice cold air being blown in through the vents -- for around a minute or so before it quickly heats up again.

It's so frustrating that my a/c does not work when the temperature outside hits 90 degrees (last summer we had 80 days of temps over 100 degrees). I am really not looking forward to another summer of sweating bullets in my FFE, even with the windows down. Man, it's a drag. Why would Ford design a car that cannot have A/C when it's hot? That's the entire POINT of A/C.

Speaking of charging, our garage shares a common wall with our bedroom. If I plug my car in (just into the regular outlet, not Level 2) before I go to sleep to charge, I will be woken up in the middle of the night because it's so loud out there. The fan or whatever is racing so fast and so loudly it is sounds like it is going to explode. I have to literally get out of bed and go out into the garage to unplug the vehicle so I can get any sleep.

If anyone has any ideas why these things are happening and what I might be able to do about it, I would love to hear them.
That charging situation is odd. The fans only get noisy if I DCFC or Level 2 charge in warmer, low 90's ambient, weather. 110V charging is fairly quiet. The fan might turn on, but its not at high speed.
When a vehicle charges, the battery will be warmed up above ambient temperature (unless it's cold and it may need to be warmed, at least initially, to charge optimally).

Additionally, the AC charger has to dissipate heat as it changes AC to DC. Just the rectifier will dissipate about 45 watts if your EVSE is delivering the full 32 amps that the FFE can draw.

The heat has to go somewhere. If the location where the car us charging is cool enough, it can dissipate it to the ambient air. If that is not enough, the cooling pump will be turned on to help. If you listen carefully, you can hear this.

If that is not enough, the cooling fan will be turned on, and it will be a little louder than the pump. If that is still not enough, the A/C compressor is needed, and that will be very loud compared to everything else.

The cabin cooling problems that the OP describes may be an issue with the operation of the vents/ducts. If the A/C itself were not working, you would have problems charging when it is warm, let alone hot.

I had the evaporator for my A/C fail and need replacing last year. That gave me no cooling at all and a loss of refrigerant. Compressor would still come on, but no cooling and both the high and low pressure sensors read about the same value.

I discovered the problem on a day trip in fairly warm weather. Meaning, I would have used the A/C for highway driving, but could live without it.

When I tried a DCFC, the power the car will took droped off very quickly. I'm talking a starting rate of 35 kW dropping to 16 within 6-8 minutes. Using an AC charger had the vehicle limiting the charge rate to less than 5 kW and the "turtle" light in the dash came on when the vehicle was started right after charging. It disappeared as the fan and highway driving late in the day cooled things.
You might check to see if your cooling loop is busted. The compressor output gets rerouted when it needs to chill the battery and if the loop isn't working right it will just keep trying to chill the battery in vain. In my case the diverter broke in such a way that the coolant would never actually go through the chiller.

If you have Forscan, look at the battery inlet coolant temp to see what it's at over time. Also good to remote start the car so it can start working on the battery cooling for a bit.
Thanks for all of your thoughts. I wish I knew enough to try Forscan or know what cooling loops are, etc., but I am woefully ignorant in this troubleshooting space.

I do charge in a closed garage and it gets pretty hot in there.

I had to unplug again the other night because of the super loud fan noise, which stopped as soon as I unplugged.

I find that if I haven’t charged for a while, the a/c tends to work fine, almost regardless of the outside temperatures. But after I charge, I have to wait *many* hours to use the car if I want the cooling system to engage.
Can someone help me out and let me know what dongle I need to make forscan work with iOS? I’ve been trying to figure it out, but the OBDScan devices I’ve found that are compatible with Apple devices say they don’t work with electric vehicles. :-(
You might just have to bite the bullet and get a cheap windows laptop or tablet. The mobile versions of Forscan don't have as many features.

I second what Anti_Climax said; it sounds like coolant isn't getting to the battery. Do you also find that 240V charging takes much longer than estimated?