Volvo would like to recommend a non-pharmaceutical alternative. In several vehicles, the carmaker already offers micro-filtration systems that are claimed to capture the particles that cause seasonal allergies. An automatic ventilation system in the S80, XC60, V70, XC70 and S60 apparently flushes the interior air when the doors are unlocked.
The Swedish-Chinese automaker has also been putting a lot of effort into using hypo-allergenic interior materials like chromium free leather. While all of this might work to minimize pollen exposure while driving, at some point everyone has to get out of the car. If Volvo could just find a way to get their cars to absorb the atmospheric pollen, then we'd really be in business.
As wonderful as the spring is for many people, it is also sheer torture for others. A person suffering from asthma or allergy has few sanctuaries during the pollen season. However, a ride in a Volvo car may make life easier.
"The filters we fit to clean the passenger compartment air also remove the particles that cause allergies. A ride in a car can actually make breathing easier for many sufferers when the problem becomes acute," says Andreas Andersson, manager of allergy-optimised car interiors at Volvo Cars.
The filters that clean the air have two functions - one blocks particles and the other is impregnated with active carbon, which neutralises gases. The air in the car's passenger compartment is monitored by an air quality system that measures the amount of gases in the incoming air. Well before the levels get too high, the air intake to the passenger compartment is shut entirely automatically without any input from the driver. For this reason, the air inside the car is in principle always cleaner than the air outside.
One factor that contributes to the clean in-car air is the automatic ventilation system, which airs out the car when the driver unlocks it. This system is currently found in the Volvo S80, XC60, V70, XC70 and S60 but will gradually be introduced in all the company's models.
Volvo Cars is in the lead in the development of allergy-optimised cars. Uniquely in the car industry, the textiles used in all the company's models meet the stringent Öko-Tex* standards, while the leather upholstery is entirely free of chromium.
What is more, nickel seepage from all metal-finish interior trim components has been minimised. As a result, five Volvo models with nine different interior trim alternatives have interior air of such high quality that they are recommended by the Swedish Asthma and Allergy Association.
Several Volvo models have also received high ratings by Healthy Car in the US, an independent organisation that bases its results on research and studies of harmful substances in vehicles.
"We know that 35-40 percent of people in the western world suffer from some form of oversensitivity or allergy. This is a major problem for many people and it is therefore important that we as a car maker offer a clean environment inside our vehicles," says Andreas Andersson.
Filter to tackle small particles
The researchers at Volvo Cars are now working on the development of filters that can stop even the tiniest of particles.
"It is the small particles that are the most dangerous. They may not result in immediate symptoms like the larger ones do, which cause allergies to blossom. However, small particles can cause negative health effects in the longer term," concludes Andreas Andersson.
Jan Olson, marketing manager at the Swedish Asthma and Allergy Association, is both grateful for and highly satisfied over the organisation's cooperation with Volvo Cars.
"We haven't received any negative feedback from users since we defined the criteria for allergy-optimised air quality, and several of Volvo's models have been approved in accordance with these standards. This means we have pitched our standards exactly right," he explains.
"It's difficult to give an exact figure, but we do not see any tendency for the problem to tail off. And the level is roughly the same throughout Europe," adds Jan Olson.
DRIVe Towards Zero
The development of an allergy-optimised in-car environment is part of the vision that Volvo Cars presented under the heading DRIVe Towards Zero, where the aim is to develop cars that are entirely free from harmful particles and carbon dioxide emissions. Thus far, China is the only country that regulates in-car air quality with enforced legislation. In Japan there are regulations for domestic car manufacturers.
IAQS (Interior Air Quality System), automatic ventilation and removable floor-mats are all grouped together under the heading of CZIP, which stands for Clean Zone Interior Package. IAQS is available as an option on all Volvo's car models.
Volvo Cars models that can be ordered with CZIP and are recommended by the Swedish Asthma and Allergy Association:
Volvo S60 (the tests are being carried out this spring but the model meets the same standards as the other recommended models)
*International Oeko-Tex® Association is a collection of 14 reputable textile research and test institutes in Europe and Japan that conduct independent tests of harmful substances.