Coronavirus has ushered in a new era of air-conditioning in cars


Clean air is becoming more of a focus for many car drivers, not least because of the pandemic. — dpa

Disturbing odours, annoying pollen and now virus-laden aerosols: drivers value clean air inside their car more than ever, especially since the beginning of the pandemic.

The car industry has long since picked up on this trend and is coming up with more and more elaborate air-conditioning systems.

Mercedes’ new electric model EQS, for example, has an innovative air-conditioner in the front, in a space occupied by the engine in conventional cars.

Here, the manufacturer has installed a so-called Hepa filter which provides clinical air quality like in an operating room, according to Mercedes.

The EQS boot has a volume of 610 to 1,770 litres, more than any other Mercedes S-Class model and more than enough to make up for the lost storage space in the front. However, the placement also shows the importance now attributed to air conditioning.

Filter capacity: 150 football fields

“While this was initially a very big issue in Asia in particular, it has also become a top priority in the rest of the world since the coronavirus at the latest, ” says Mercedes’ Christoph Starzynski, justifying the installation of a filter that is larger than a crate of beer and separates 99.65% of particles of all sizes on a surface the size of 150 football fields.

But Mercedes isn’t the only manufacturer that has ramped up the fight against dirty air. For years, developers were concerned with the perfect distribution of air flows in the car and the most individualised comfort zones possible for each occupant.

But now it’s increasingly about purity: modern air-conditioning systems detect air quality and automatically activate recirculation mode, they ionize the air flow to eliminate odours, and they are now filtering out ever smaller particles as well.

Regulating clean air via your smartphoneBritish manufacturer Rolls-Royce, for example, claims it has installed the first automatic climate control system with a nanoparticle filter in its new Ghost model last year, a system that since this spring has also been available for some luxury models at BMW.

“This technology makes it possible to keep certain microbial particles and allergens out of the vehicle interior in addition to ultra-fine dust, ” says press spokesperson Bernhard Ederer.

In recirculation mode, the interior is thus cleaned of almost all particles beyond the usual level. And the driver doesn’t even have to be in the car to switch it on. Thanks to remote access via an app, the air-conditioning system can be programmed accordingly even before you start driving.

But clean air is also increasingly available in lower-price ranges. Japanese manufacturer Honda, for example, has launched an interior filter which can be purchased additionally and installed by an authorized dealer.

The device “effectively filters, captures and suppresses toxic environmental gases as well as inorganic and biological particles and aerosols, ” according to Honda.

Maintenance and additional consumption – but it’s worth itWhile manufacturers have been doing the most to increase air quality inside the car, drivers still have to do their part, says Hans-Georg Marmit from the KUeS car expert association.

“Because an air conditioning system is only as good as its maintenance, ” warns the expert, referring emphatically to the manufacturers’ service intervals, during which coolant is checked and filters are replaced.

A little extra cost during operation must also be factored in since the air conditioner increases consumption by up to 2 litres, depending on load and performance.

But this is money well spent and not only because air conditioners protect against viruses, pollen and bad odours and prevent fungal growth in the car’s windpipes, says Marmit: “Especially in summer, activating the air conditioning is absolutely necessary to ensure the driver’s ability to concentrate.” – dpa/Thomas Geiger

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