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Heated and ventilated seats are now a mainstream technology, albeit still rather limited to more premium vehicles. These seat heaters have been based on a series of heating elements, while seat cooling has been managed by fan ventilation. Electric car maker Tesla appears to have filed a patent for a seat heating and cooling technology which employs liquid for both heating and cooling its seats.
According to Car & Driver, the seat design for which Tesla filed the patent is comprised of multiple layers; the first is what the occupant sits on, followed by an intermediate fluid layer, and another layer beyond that to contain the fluid. This is circulated around the intermediate layer by a pump to ensure uniform heating and cooling across the seat bottom and seat back.
A distribution layer resides within the intermediate layer for the heating and cooling element which will control the temperature of the fluid. The distribution element is likely to be a type of metal or metallic compound, suggests Car & Driver, which is conductive of heat and can be cooled with air-conditioning refrigerant. The liquid at the core of this patent is more likely to be a kind of aqueous gel rather than water.
What about the risk of leaks? Tesla aims to prevent such incidents with the use of conduits and structural supports to ensure proper flow throughout the system. Tesla’s change in approach towards seat temperature control has the potential to be much more effective than present-day seat ventilation technology, and also be able to operate more quietly, the report suggests, possibly more energy-efficient as well.
Patent filings represent a very early stage in the journey of a given innovation towards production reality, however the benefits of a liquid-cooled system for seat temperature control appear promising. Might this make it to a production Tesla? Time will tell.