Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Air Conditioning in cars - a long journey since the 60ies
In 1939 Packard equipped the first car with Air Conditioning. The system apparently used the whole trunk space. Since then we came a long way. Not only the systems got smaller and lighter, they also became more efficient and effective. In 1969 already more than half of all domestic cars were sold with an air conditioner. Not so in Europe, where it took quite a bit longer to achieve this level of adoption. This had also to do with pricing. In 1980 for example the air conditioning option for a BMW or Mercedes was priced at about DM 3'000 to 4'000, about half the price of a decent compact car, or 5-15% of a family sedan! And some of these systems were pretty crude, i.e. you could turn them on or off and maybe influence the "cooling down" factor and the wind speed of the vent. At least that's what the system in my Berlinetta Boxer was all about. Many of these systems actually were not able to really cool down a car on a hot day. Today this is quite different, as a lot of engineering has gone into this (mostly standard) option. Not only they need much less energy, they are also fairly small and quite unexpensive. Forgotten the days when you had to turn the aircon off if you wanted to overtake. Air conditioning makes driving cars safer not only because the driver's reactions are better in a cooler environment, but also because the systems take humidity out of the air and improve overall visibility. So, all in all, here's some good engineering applied to everyday's problems.