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Vehicle Thermal Comfort Systems

Photo of a man standing in a laboratory and telling another man about a special manikin dressed in a shirt and slacks and sitting in a wheelchair; the manikin is connected to wires that measure the effects of vehicle heating and cooling.

An NREL scientist explains to a visitor how ADAM, NREL's thermal manikin, is helping researchers develop more energy-efficient cooling systems for vehicles.
Credit: Pat Corkery

NREL's researchers are working on new technologies and methods for reducing the amount of energy needed to cool the interior of a car, van, or truck. These technologies will help the auto industry produce vehicles that are more energy efficient.

A person produces only about 150 watts of heat. However, a typical cooling system in a vehicle provides about 6000 watts of cooling. In order to achieve thermal comfort levels, the climate control systems in today's vehicles cool the entire interior, or cabin, of the vehicle rather than just its occupants.

To reduce the heat that builds up inside vehicles and help to keep the driver and occupants comfortable, researchers are investigating technologies such as solar-reflective window glass and innovative parked-car ventilation systems. They are also working with industry to develop climate-control seats that will cool the people in the vehicle rather than the entire cabin. And they are exploring heat-generated cooling, a counterintuitive approach that uses waste heat from the engine to cool the vehicle.

Learn more about vehicle thermal management.