AC units

German Researchers Aim to Make Energy-Efficient Vehicle Air Conditioning Systems

Cars
The air conditioning systems used in many of today’s residential homes are more energy-efficient than ever before. In fact, today’s air conditioners consume 30 – 50% less energy on average than those manufactured in the 1970s.

But what about the air conditioning system in your car? How can these systems maintain a comfortable temperature within your vehicle while still maintaining a high level of energy efficiency?

A team of German engineers recently tried to find the answer by studying air conditioning energy efficiency in electric vehicles.

According to a Phys.org article, researchers at Munich’s Technische Universität München (TUM) sought to find a solution on creating a subjectively comfortable climate for passengers without skimping on energy efficiency. Because electric vehicles largely adopted concepts from combustion-engine vehicles, their air conditioning systems have thus far placed a huge dent in their ability to consume electricity efficiently.

To solve this problem, the researchers took an entirely new angle to in-vehicle air conditioning, throwing everything they knew about combustion-engine vehicles out the window. They ultimately found that cooling in direct proximity to the passenger’s body, rather than cooling the entire cabin, provided the most energy-efficient solution.

“Our trials showed that uniform climate control is not necessary,” Marius Janta, staff member of the Chair for Ergonomics at the TU München, explained. “When we heat the seat of a passenger on cold days, passengers find it pleasant. With only a small amount of energy we can significantly reduce the sense of discomfort.”

Phys.org reports that the researchers also boosted electric vehicle efficiency through integrating the car’s performance electronics into a system of holistic thermal management. This means that during the winter, waste heat generated by the engine and performance electronics are used to warm the passenger cabin. Conversely, excess air conditioning capacity could be used to cool the car’s performance electronics during the warmer months.

And this solution isn’t exclusive to electric vehicles — the researchers explained that these energy-efficient concepts can be applied to combustion-engine vehicles, as well.