Automotive Cabin Comfort – The rising application of seat thermal management
The demand for seat thermal management is expected to grow by more than 30% between 2018 and 2024 as cabin surface thermal management solutions become a crucial strategy in enhancing passenger comfort and improving efficiency. The primary drivers for the technology are the requirement for enhanced comfort, the effectiveness of localized individual thermal solutions, and the demand from regions facing extreme cold climates such as North America, Europe, and Greater China. The research and forecast in this article cover markets for the following regions: Greater China (which includes the numbers from China and Taiwan), Europe, Japan/Korea, North America & South America.
In automotive design, passenger comfort is a central element along with the other performance and efficiency parameters. Manufacturers invest a lot of resources to ensure the highest degree of ambiance, ergonomics, and user experience for the occupants. Extreme seasonal swings in ambient temperatures caused by global warming mean that an effective and efficient cabin thermal management is crucial for passenger comfort and well-being. The occupants are not likely to rate the vehicle high on comfort if he/she is seated in an opulent interior with a ton of technology content but spends significant time shivering or drenched in perspiration; the consumer expects the cabin to be cooled or heated quickly to a comfortable temperature but not at the cost of vehicle efficiency. Conventionally, this task primarily falls to the vehicle’s heat, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Designing a well-performing HVAC system is not a significant hurdle for the industry today, but when increasingly stringent efficiency, emission, and regulations targets are introduced into the mix, balancing performance and efficiency becomes a challenge. Achieving the development efficiency targets for the various subsystems through only a singular focus – i.e., pursuing just significant efficiency gains – may be a time-consuming and resource-heavy pursuit. Advancements in automotive HVAC system technology are being bolstered by the adoption of several complementary cabin-temperature/passenger-temperature management systems. Special glazing on the windows, solar reflective paint, heated/cooled seats, heated steering wheel/armrests, and parked car ventilation/re-circulation strategies that can sense and correct the cabin parameters autonomously have found application in vehicles. These technologies reduce the soak temperatures of the vehicle and HVAC system energy as well as improve the time-to-comfort for the passengers.