Fans? We don't need no stinkin' fans.

Last week, BMW discussed an infrared heating system for vehicle occupants that would pretty drastically cut energy use compared to traditional systems and thereby extend the range of its battery-electric and plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles.

The German automaker, which introduced the idea at a recent Innovation Day, explained a system that would see panels that give off thermal radiation mounted in footwells and on door panels. Besides the energy savings, the system would be silent and could deliver cabin heat within a minute and would have no need for fans or air vents. More importantly, when coupled with an on-board heat pump, infrared could cut cabin heating energy requirements in half and may extend electric range by as much as 30 percent.

Whether or when such a system will see the light of day in a production car is anyone's guess. But we do know that BMW will debut a plug-in hybrid concept car called the Active Tourer at the Paris Motor Show next week. That said, reports came out earlier this year saying BMW may delay or even cancel plans to build its i-branded EVs and PHEVs because of demand questions and high costs. BMW is still moving forward with plug-ins, but how much and how infrared remains a mystery.
Show full PR text
[Snippet of BMW Press Release]

Infrared heating surfaces emit "healthy" radiant heat.

Conventional heaters and air conditioners today heat the air inside the vehicle, which then transfers its heat to the driver and passengers. In contrast, in systems employing infrared heating surfaces, energy is converted into infrared radiation, which then warms the occupants' bodies directly. The heating effect is operational only one minute after the system is switched on. In addition, the heat generated by infrared heating surfaces is distributed without any need for drafts of air and is completely silent. In the field of vehicle heating systems, modern infrared heating surfaces are a new solution that not only promotes low power consumption but also provides a noticeable improvement in the passengers' level of comfort. Particularly when used in battery electric vehicles (BEVs), which are purely electrically-driven, in future infrared heating surfaces will yield gains in efficiency, since the electrical energy will be used to directly warm the occupants. Apart from rapidly warming the passengers, infrared heating surfaces can be used as an additional feature to create an agreeable, cosy climate within the vehicle. Separate regulated circuits, analogous to seat heating, with which the occupants can individually set their own degree of comfort are another possibility. Since each passenger can be provided with his own individual heating system, it is also possible to selectively heat only those seats that are occupied and thus reduce energy consumption.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 36 Comments
      Levine Levine
      • 2 Years Ago
      Having fallen in love with complicated ICE, BMW ignored electric locomotion of automobles and even hybrid technology. Playing catch to Lexus 600h, the first BMW active hybrid 7 was a disaster. The disappointment is great that BMW redesigned and installed a new Active 7 hybrid powertrain in the following year. In the EV front, Tesla has eaten BMW's lunch as far as luxury EV market goes. Boxed in by LExus and Tesla, BMW has become irrelevant as high-end consumers are going more "Green' than the "ulitmate driving machine.'
        renegade3124
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Levine Levine
        What planet are you on? Tesla and Lexus eating BMW's lunch? Irrelevant?
      BipDBo
      • 2 Years Ago
      Here's the problem with heat pumps: The colder it is outside, the less efficient they are, down to a point where they don't work at all, and auxiliary electric resistance heat takes over. Basically, heat pumps pump heat uphill, from the colder outdoor air to the warmer indoor air. It's the reverse cycle of air conditioning. As there is less heat outside, the system needs to work harder to deliver warm air while at the same time is asked to deliver more of the warm air. In heat mode, the outdoor coil is the evaporator, and is colder than the outdoor air. If the outdoor air is near freezing, this coil will freeze up. In order to thaw itself, it will go into cooling mode, delivering cold air to the duct airstream but reheating it with electric heat. This warm-thaw cycle is often no more efficient than simple electric resistance heat. There is a very narrow band of outdoor air temperature in which heat pumps will be of benefit, and this band lies where the demand for heating is low. Fortunately, on an electric car, there may be warmer places than just behind the front bumper from which to draw heat with the evaporator. If you had a separate coil for your cooling mode condenser than your heating mode evaporator, you could place your heating mode evaporator in a warmer place. For example, it could draw heat rejected by the motor and its controller. It could be a water to refrigerant exchanger that draws heat from the battery packs thermal management system. Even those places, though will get colder as the ambient temperature drops. Because heat pumps work less and less well as the air outside ets colder, have the potential to surprise the driver with very low range on a very cold day. I think that the best heat source for an EV is fossil fuel. You could have a small propane tank that could be replaced in about a minute. An EV customer in Florida may want to opt out of such an option, but a buyer in Maine would get it.
        DaveMart
        • 2 Years Ago
        @BipDBo
        The basis you give for the technology is correct, but your information on performance is dated. The heat pump I have4 ijn my house is only specified for a maritime climate, since I live in the UK, but you still don't reach break even against resistance heating until the temperature drops to -10C. Heat pumps using CO2 as a working fluid are good for still lower temperatures, and are extensively produced in Japan. I don't have full details about them for cars, since the field is new, but Fujitsu and Mitsubishi are amongst the many manufacturers offering DO2 heat pumps.
          DaveMart
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          I have an air to air heat pump, as are all the systems I reference. Here is the one I have: http://www.worcester-bosch.co.uk/homeowner/heat-pumps/air-to-air-heat-pump Of course at very low temperatures there is a de-icing cycle, but you are still in the black to far below freezing point. Since I both pay and keep a check on electricity bills I can confirm that this is in fact the case, and is not some false advertising by the companies. Here is another user who lives in the more demanding climate of Halifax: http://www.theoildrum.com/node/2943#comment-234567 Note: ' This Fujitsu model has a 21 SEER rating and a HSPF of 11.0, and continues to crank out a good amount of heat all the way down to -15C (5F). The average cost of the heat it provides is less than one-third that of electric resistance ' This is someone who specifies energy saving equipment for a living, and keeps careful check of what is happening. Here are the data sheets for the Mitsubishi and Fujitsu air to air heat pumps: http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy11osti/52175.pdf
          BipDBo
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          Good discussion. This enginner has learned some things.
          BipDBo
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          "The heat pump I have4 ijn my house is only specified for a maritime climate, since I live in the UK, but you still don't reach break even against resistance heating until the temperature drops to -10C." If your system is a ground or water source heat pump, that is a different animal. If it's an air source, reverse cycle heat pump, your claim is simply not true. Manufacturer's list the efficiencies as they are running between the cycles of the freeze-thaw process, but don't give the average efficiency. It's deceptive advertizing. The type of refrigerant also does not do anything to prevent freeze-up. CO2 is a good application for heat pump mode as it is used in lower temperature applications like refrigerated cases. Unfortunatle it is not good for reverse cycle systems that do both cooil and heating because when used in cooling mode for air conditioning, it is much less efficient than conventional refrigerants like R-410A. I seriously doubt that auto manufacturers would consider having a car with 2 separate systems with different refrigerant, one for cooling and one for heating. There is really no new ideas in air conditioning. "New" technologies like the Mitsubishi Ecoden are simply old ideas that are introduced as demand exceeds their cost. It should also be noted that the burning of fuel directly for heat is up to 95% efficient, whereas burning that fuel in a plant somewhere and recieving it as electricity is much, much less efficient. Therefore, it is much, much more difficult for a heat pump to match the overall efficiency of burning fuel than to match the efficiency of electric resistance heating. I'm a mechanical professional engineer, specializing in air conditioning. I'm very familiar with products offered by Mitsubishi and equivalent brands. I run building energy simulations routinely.
          DaveMart
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          I had no air conditioning, which is uncommon in UK homes. Humidity is high in the UK, although not at Florida levels, so that defrosting in the winter is a real draw, in spite of our comparatively rare very low temperature incidence. Since I previously used oil filled resistance heaters checking my bill when the temperature was as low as it gets here quickly established that there was indeed a net energy gain down to maybe -10C. I am not an engineer, and so unqualified to discuss in detail the testing regime etc. Paul on the Oil Drum is the man to direct technical enquiries to. I have though followed air source heat pump technology reasonably closely, and performances have rapidly increased. It is possible that the info that the model that Worcester-Bosch has net energy down to -20C is now correct, as I have had mine for two years. In the UK the price of running my system for heating is around the same as a gas fired central heating system, although that would not provide cooling in the summer.
          BipDBo
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          The DOE report you referenced is very interesting: http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy11osti/52175.pdf It shows heat performance at lower temeperature far better than what I am accustomed to. It outlines how they determined a defrost penalty. Page 24 shows a table outlining the results. Perhaps I would need to do more reading, but I just don't see how, with a defrost time of 10.3 minutes and a defrost-to-defrost cycle time of 117 minutes, they obatin a COP defrost penalty of only 5%. For 8.8% of the time, the system is working while not providing heat to the space, but even worse, it is providing cooling to the space, which is conventionally compensated with electric resistance heat. There calculation just doesn't make sense. I see another potential problem. The table shows the time between defrosts to be much higher than I expected, sometimes over 2 hours. There is a very interesting ommision in the report. There is no mention of what the outdoor dry bulb temperature is. They mention several times what the space dry bulb temperature is, but in heating mode, that's irrelevant. If they tested this thing simulating conditions you may see in a very dry environment like in the middle of a desert, you would likely see very long periods between defrosts. If you're anywhere near the water, as is most of my work and as is the coil behind the front bumper of an EV driving down a snowy road, the ambient air is nearly completely saturated with moisture in the coldest time of the day. This is why dew appears on the grass during the night. Under these fairly typical conditions, a heat pump coil collects frost very quickly, so I would expect much more frequent defrosts. You state that you have traced your power bill and have seen a big change. What did you replace? Could the change be more due to having a newer, more efficient machine. When I replaced my AC system, I had the choice in my budget to either go with a lower efficiency heat pump or a higher efficiency air conditioner with electric resistance heat. Both options were the same cost. Granted, I live in Florida where cooling takes place much more during the year than heating. Also my home is fairly well insulated, which shifts the proportion further to cooling. I ran simulations and found that the higher efficiency cooling only system with electric resistance heat saved around 5 times as much energy as the lower efficiency reverse cycle heat pump. The heat pump only saved $21 of electrons per year. I'm sure that fuel costs are very different in the UK than the US. In the US, natural gas is pretty cheap. I have never seen a building here where a revese cycle heat pump is anywhere close to being as economical as burning gas.
          DaveMart
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          It's always fun having a rational discussion. Perhaps I should add that I would doubt the figure of net gain down to -20C, unless they have changed the working fluid, and since the old one did the job in this climate I would doubt that, unless they have had to change for regulatory reasons due to a clamp down on ozone depleting chemicals. What is undoubtedly the case though is that COP figures have gone up a lot over the last few years, and are now at worthwhile values for many more climates than was previously the case, which is handy since they are a fraction of the cost of ground source. The only link I have managed to dig out on CO2 heat pumps in cars is ancient, 2004, but you might find some of it interesting, it is above my head: http://www.sae.org/altrefrigerant/presentations/co2hrnjak.pdf
          DaveMart
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          BTW, they give -20C as the lowest level for heat pump output in the Worcester-Bosch. When the temperature goes below -10C though I would turn off the heat pump, and switch on my resistance heaters, as you are spending too much energy de-icing. You still have a net gain down to that figure though.
      Rich
      • 2 Years Ago
      No fans needed for the heating (IHKA in BMW jargon) AND it'll cut down on the amperage of the whole car? WOW thats a grea..... hold on, wait a minute. Don't we have to use fans for the air conditioning system (which is part of the heating system, ie IHKA)? Didn't BMW have (and has) issues with heater circuits becoming "over temperate" (i.e. too hot due to an internal short)? I'm glad to see this is where they are spending there time.
      Rotation
      • 2 Years Ago
      IR tens to give that "getting a suntan" feeling, not everyone finds it comfortable as primary heat. Heat pump is of course a good idea, I'm sure it's making most of the efficiency bump.
      Spiffster
      • 2 Years Ago
      Hate to be a pessimist but this is just another expensive thing that could break. I used to own a 2003 3 series... perhaps I got a lemon. On a somewhat related note, if you want to learn how to fix a car yourself, buy a used bimmer ;-) 900 dollars for a brake job, 850 dollars for a MAF sensor (just the part), oil level sensor, 5(!) replaced turn signals / brake lights, external thermostat sensor... few other things. Ugh. 80k miles when I finally got rid of it.
        BipDBo
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Spiffster
        An infrared panel is simply an electric resistance heater. It's simple, relatively cheap to manufacture and has no moving parts. The only somewhat probable way it would fail would be at the electrical connectors. On the note of your bimmer, I own a Ford Windstar. I know your pain. At least, though, the Ford parts are a lot cheaper.
          BipDBo
          • 2 Years Ago
          @BipDBo
          True enough. Sensors and electronics are the bain of anyone owning an older car. I often think they build the electronics as delicate as they do intentionally to encourage customers to retire their vehicle and return to the dealer lot. The internal components of sensors are very delicate and usually fail because they are gunked up. Electronics are very small and delicate, vulnerable to damage from relatively small voltage spikes. An incandescent light filament or the electronics of an LED is obviously small and frail as well. An electric resistance heater, though, is a pretty simple, rugged electrical device. They mostly fail when in an airstream. Much like the failing of a sensor to getting gunked up, a heating element in an airstream collects dust which provides a layer of insulation. The insulation causes them to overheat and burnout. In the infrared application, though, the heating element is sealed and not suseptible to dust this cause of failure.
          Spiffster
          • 2 Years Ago
          @BipDBo
          The MAF sensor, oil level sensor, external temperature sensor, and various lights all had no moving parts. I believe BMW has a reputation for failing electrical components. Dont get me wrong the car was an absolute treat to drive otherwise.
          Spiffster
          • 2 Years Ago
          @BipDBo
          The MAF sensor, oil level sensor, external temperature sensor, and various lights all had no moving parts. I believe BMW has a reputation for failing electrical components. Dont get me wrong the car was an absolute treat to drive otherwise.
      Fat man
      • 2 Years Ago
      new study; people how drive BMW are getting cancer......lol jk
        KenZ
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Fat man
        And to play on that, if you "lightly microwave" the interior, the people will get warmer and you won't waste money on heating the air, the seats, or anything other than them and their coffee. It's a win/win. (also kidding)
          A P
          • 2 Years Ago
          @KenZ
          Well German oven tech is famous in history.......
      DaveMart
      • 2 Years Ago
      And: 'In the area of passenger compartment heating, BMW is exploring the use of heat pumps as well as of infrared systems. ' http://www.greencarcongress.com/2012/09/bmwheating-20120918.html
      Nick
      • 2 Years Ago
      A gasoline / fuel heater would be okay with me. It uses very little fuel and is vastly more efficient.
      upstategreenie
      • 2 Years Ago
      and this is more awesome news Americans will never actually see in this country because big oil will ban it. but otherwise good progress by Europeans!
      Ryan
      • 2 Years Ago
      I'm thinking of using a 35W heating pad and wearing appropriate winter clothes. It gets pretty hot. I also have good winter gloves that I can use while driving. I will have a 1500 W ceramic heater than I can use to 'pre-heat' the cabin of a pickup truck in 5-10 minutes while it is in my garage. Now, while my setup isn't 'professional' in any way, there are some ways to make it feel warmer while using less energy. This is a good innovation, although I thought they were going to use red IR lights when I saw the headline. Those only work a little bit when it is 40-50 F out and there is some air circulation. Any colder and it's not worth it. I use one 250W bulb in my bathroom in the winter, and it makes the 52F house temp a little better in the morning, but not by much.
        tagberto
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Ryan
        My Leaf has electric heaters in all four seats. Its nice and, while it's not enough to be the only heat on a really cold day, they are much more efficient than the main heater.
      Tim
      • 2 Years Ago
      Great, Im going to put a butterball turkey on my passenger seat and a standing rib roast in the back seat. Its like driving around in a NuWave oven.
      Jon
      • 2 Years Ago
      Could IR really be more efficient than a heat pump? The whole idea of a heat pump is that it can get more heat into a system than the power to run it. So for instance a heat pump running of 200W could deliver 300W of heat into a system (I dont have actual numbers but that is the idea). The fans to move the air around then take power too (I dont know how much this adds). With IR, you run an IR panel at 200W, you get 200W out. But no fan to run. Anybody have a better idea of some real world numbers?
        Joeviocoe
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Jon
        Rotation, google or wiki CoE and heat pumps. It is not really efficiency in the terms you're thinking. Remember, there is energy all around you in the form of heat, and taking some of that energy is free for you, so you can get over 100%. Thermodynamics is not violated.
        DaveMart
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Jon
        My home heat pump gets around a factor of 4 heat or cooling to electricity. The more compact ones in a cars probably hit around a factor of 3, but when it is very hot or very cold they are less efficient. The exact numbers depend on the exact set-up. If you do things like have heated seats or use infrared the idea is that you can avoid heating the whole car so much, and so make savings that way.
        Rotation
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Jon
        Yeah, there's no way this is more than 100% efficient. The only way to save energy with this is to save energy by heating less stuff. Heat the driver, not the volume of air in the car.
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