Infrared is the modern heating technology using up to date scientific knowledge of how specific waves from the light spectrum heat objects, as opposed to heating the air. This cuts out the need for wasted energy in a 3-link system, putting heat energy where it is most useful.
When it comes to vehicles, since they have been equipped with heating devices, they have always used the traditional fan-to-air-to-objects system which many of us will be familiar with, waiting for the engine to heat up and the old stale air, which has been sat in the vents from the last time it was used to be blown out and on frosty mornings waiting for the chill factor to ease, possibly after 10 minutes or thereabouts.
This hugely ineffective method of heating consumes a reasonable amount of energy to run as well, at least if you are using the car battery to power it. It requires greater efficiency than it has currently, the generated watts are more precious and every watt saved, saves the battery itself which is powered by the burning of fuel in the vehicle’s engine.
Power and battery efficiency are of even greater importance in the emerging electric vehicle (EV) market. This is because the industry is defined by battery power and durability.
When Infrared systems are installed in place of the traditional systems, there can be a 60% reduction on energy consumption for heating purposes and an increased electric range of 30%. This is helped by the reduction in weight as the infrared technology can be extremely lightweight, not to mention other benefits including:
- Remains carbon free, if powered by the cars battery from a renewable source – it does not need fossil fuels to power it.
- There is a reduction in condensation; this is because the objects are at a higher temperature than the air around deterring the build-up of moisture, which is particularly useful on public transport where this is a major problem and can save money on fixing mould and other associated problems.
- The cost savings of not having to install a fan system can save construction costs – not by a lot but without the need for a lot of older technology, more efficient car interior and exterior designs are possible.
- There is a greater feel of warmth in a much quicker time; infrared can heat occupants to a desirable temperature in just 60 seconds.
- The fact that it uses the light spectrum also means that it has the ability to reach in many places which may not be heated in the traditional method. Variations in temperature in different areas are reduced and so with it, are ‘cold spots’.
BMW has debuted a car with this technology installed; this however is likely to only come into the public domain if and when EVs become more mainstream.
One further suggestion for future evolution of this technology is that it could be coupled with a heat pump, allowing for the low grade heat to be sourced from the outside and only a third of the already hugely reduced energy consumption required for the same result. This approach has come under fire by critics though as it would take away from at least one of the perceived benefits of installation, weight reduction, and possibly affect cost saving in the process.