NREL's Vehicle Ancillary Loads Reduction team has been working with industry to try to reduce fuel consumption from airconditioning in cars and trucks. The use of ventilated seating is one way to cut airconditioning, because ventilated seats keep drivers and passengers cooler, so they need less airconditioning to be comfortable.
Ventilated seats are already in use as a luxury option in the General Motors Cadillac STS, manufactured by automotive supply companies such as Johnson Controls, which is also prominent in the heating, ventilation and airconditioning (HVAC) market.
NREL developed a set of "thermal comfort tools" to help the automotive industry design smaller and more efficient climate-control systems in vehicles, including a unique "thermal comfort manikin" called ADAM (ADvanced Automotive Manikin), which simulates biological processes including breathing and sweating.
The ADAM, in conjunction with NREL-developed physiological and psychological models, has helped the research team assess comfort in real automotive environments unlike other commonly used models based on steady-state, uniform environmental data.
The research into reducing the need for automotive airconditioning is expected to contribute to a wider plan to reduce the total impact of cars and trucks on the environment and reduce fuel expenditure.