Heated, ventilated and cooled seats are marvellous at cosseting vehicle occupants when the weather gets too hot or too cold. Now, Tesla thinks it's figured out a better way to make you comfortable and it involves liquid.
The patent outlines a seat with multiple layers. Beneath the layer you would sit on is an intermediate layer – made from foam or mesh – that’s been adapted to allow fluid to flow through it.
A pump helps ensure the even distribution throughout this layer of a fluid, either water or an aqueous-based coolant. The patent also outlines the use of conduits and supports that would prevent any leakage from this layer.
That’s quite a bit different from how heated, ventilated and cooled seats work presently.
Today’s heated seats use a heating element, a long strip of material embedded in the seat that’s heated once electric current passes through it. Tesla’s patent still involves the use of a heating element to increase the temperature of the fluid.
“Ventilated” and “cooled” are terms that are often used interchangeably but there’s an important distinction. A ventilated seat uses fans that draw air from the cabin and direct it at your body. Cooled seats use an additional cooling element that refrigerates the air.
If you’re not sure which one you’ve experienced before, a good rule of thumb is that ventilated seats stop your back and behind from sweating while cooled seats give you that feeling you’ve sat on a cold surface and/or wet yourself.
Tesla currently uses ventilated seats. Cooled seats are generally less common than the simpler ventilated kind, though they’re available in cars like the Ford Mustang.
Though it’s speculation, Tesla may have patented this new seat design because it could be more energy-efficient. In theory, this fluid-based heating and cooling system could also be less noisy than some of today’s ventilated seats.
There’s no word on whether these seats will be manufactured. If they do reach production, it’ll be interesting to see – or, rather, feel – if they’re more effective than today’s seats.