French automotive technology company Faurecia has developed a range of solutions to address thermal comfort and safety.
According to consumer research by Faurecia that looked at consumer preferences in regards to vehicle interiors, thermal comfort is a top three priority in France, China and the USA. The company also notes that reducing time to sensation and time to comfort, while minimizing the impact on cost, are key challenges in temperature control functionalities. These two factors are also crucial to saving energy, especially in battery electric vehicles. The same research also showed that synchronizing lighting features with safety alerts strengthens the warning effect and enhances a driver’s peace of mind.
“The starting point for developing and synchronizing these technologies is always the user. Ensuring these features respond to or anticipate needs, are simple to use or upgrade, and give the right information at the right time are essential to advancing human-centric technological solutions in mobility,” said Anthony Lucy, innovation manager at Faurecia Interiors. “Through intuitive HMI across the vehicle interior, users can manage a range of personalized features that enhance comfort and safety.”
To this end, Faurecia’s engineers have developed a range of radiant panel solutions which can be integrated into various interiors components (such as the instrument panel, door panel and center console). As well as reducing time to sensation and time to comfort, the radiant panels’ benefits go beyond improvements in thermal management.
For example, although 80% of journeys involve only a single occupant, conventional thermal management systems cover the entire vehicle interior, consuming more energy than necessary. A radiant panel system allows for greater flexibility in thermal management, increasing energy efficiency and lowering associated CO2 emissions compared with conventional counterparts.
Controlled through an HMI, the Faurecia solutions reduce time to sensation and time to comfort, with little to no impact on the cost of production. Surrounding vehicle occupants with up to eight heating panels creates a ‘cocoon effect’ in each seat, enhancing overall comfort. As well as improvements in the user experience, the radiant panel solutions are designed to use up to 30% less energy for comfort, and thus have lower CO2 emissions in their use phase. Integrated into battery electric vehicles, this saving in energy spent on comfort translates into an extension in range of up to 5% at -10°C.
The company states that its first generation of radiant panels are ready for serial production, with an SOP set for June 2021 on a premium German electric SUV. Subsequent generations, which offer broader possibilities in industrial processes and materials, are in the innovation stages.
Looking to other areas of product development, Faurecia highlights that further consumer studies have shown safety features underdeliver on clear and precise information related to functions such as lane departure warnings, automatic lane centering, and blind spot monitoring.
To counteract this, its engineers have integrated safety alerts with decorative lighting, marrying functional and aesthetic features to enhance the user experience inside the cockpit. The company says that users reported the extra safety warning and peace of mind for the driver as the main benefits of the solution.
Lighting features and thermal management systems can also be integrated, with the lighting placed between the skin and the radiant panel. Several OEMs have expressed interest in these features, Faurecia says, which will be integrated into the next generations of their premium and mass-market vehicles.