This new mode of heating consumes minimal power, making it an ideal solution for electric cars, which have to warm up without heat from the engine. Drivers of diesel or gasoline powered engines benefit from the surface-integrated heating, particularly on short journeys. The technology can also be used in trucks, agricultural and construction vehicles, trains, and planes.
The conductive material has three distinct advantages over conventional systems: the new, surface-integrated heating consumes considerably less energy to generate a warm and pleasant ambience; instead of three or more kilowatt hours, only 300 watts are required to heat the areas directly in touch with the driver and passengers; just beneath the surface and radiating two to three centimeters, the heating process only takes a few seconds. Last but not least, the conductive print can be applied in any shape to the surface material to be heated. This is a distinct advantage over conventional heating pads based on metal wires or carbon fibers, whose shape is virtually unalterable. This Benecke-Kaliko innovation makes it possible for almost any component to be part of the interior heating system: seats, control levers, armrests, door trims, or floor mats.
Describing the project, Dr. Andreas Gerken, material developer at Benecke-Kaliko, notes: "Our challenge was to find a material that is electrically conductive and consumes minimum power, yet is flexible enough not to break." A printed polymer compound is part of the cover material, so an additional application process is omitted. This compound can be incorporated into standardized manufacturing process for cover materials. Unlike solutions to date, this one gets by without component alterations or additional components. Conventional technical means are used to activate the surface-integrated heating. It is connected to the on-board power supply via a standard connector. "The benefits for carmakers are clear: They get a feature that contributes to the energy efficiency as well as individual comfort. It satisfies the passengers' need to feel relaxed – a core criterion when getting a car," says Dr. Gerken.