Feeling at ease in the hot seat

2011-10-21 14:04

While we’ve discarded of jackets in the last few weeks, our cars are not necessarily the coolest places to be in.

Air-conditioned car, however, should be the perfect reprieve from the roasting of our blazing summer sun.

Leather seats are ideal for cooler-climate countries where the heat is less unbearable.

And South Africa is generally a hot country and other than getting car shades to protect the dashboard and steering wheel from excessive heat, there isn’t much else one can do.

So far only BMW has come up with rather innovative technology when it comes to leather seats in a hot environment like ours.

The German car-makers call it sun-reflective technology. You can’t see it, but you can feel it.

BMW SA spokesperson Edward Makwana says this technology is available in select models.

“The technology is needed mostly in our convertible models. Because of our climate conditions here, this kind of technology is vital,” he says.

“Hopefully, it will be a standard addition to all the cars in our range at some point.”

Leather is a natural material and therefore breathes.

This technology is based on a special pigment that reflects direct sunlight in the invisible waveband. This pigment is used during the leather’s treatment.

This means the surfaces of the seats don’t become as hot as usual and maintain a low temperature. Compared to conventional leather, the steering wheels and seats are up to 25°C cooler than usual.

The difference in temperature is more noticable in darker materials.

Naturally, because the leather is already at a lower temperature, the air conditioner doesn’t have to work so intensely to get the car cooled down quickly.

Audi South Africa’s Nicole August says they don’t have any technologically advanced seats.

“Some models also have seat coolers and they work just like seat warmers,” she adds.

Other local carmakers such as Mercedes-Benz and Porsche have ventilated leather seats and other cooling features such as special windscreens to keep the car cooler.

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