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.
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.