The air conditioning technology used in the ultra-fast Bugatti Chiron and Bugatti Divo hypercars is capable of operating at speeds in excess of 400km/h – and is so powerful it could cool an entire apartment, according to the woman tasked with engineering the complex systems.
Julia Lemke, engineer and overall technical coordinator for Bugatti air conditioning systems, recently detailed the process of keeping the high-performance cars cool at their mind-boggling top speeds – and it's no easy feat.
In the mid-engined Chiron and Divo models, this system consists of two air-conditioning condensers to ensure heat dissipation from the vehicle, one central air conditioning unit and a compressor, with the entire system made up of around 9.5 metres' worth of air conditioning lines.
Together, the condensers and the compressor have a cooling capacity of up to 10kW – enough to cool an apartment measuring 80 square metres in size, Bugatti claims.
Image: Julia Lemke, the technical coordinator for Bugatti air conditioning systems, hard at work.
Because these vehicles can travel at such high speeds – up to 490km/h in the case of the Chiron Super Sport – Ms Lemke ensures the air conditioning system is able to change the airflow accordingly as the vehicle gains pace.
While in conventional cars, air is pushed into the interior at the lower end of the windscreen, this only happens in a Bugatti up to speeds of 250km/h – beyond this point, the system switches to a complicated negative pressure set-up so air intake can be maintained.
Additionally, the exceedingly flat windscreens of Bugatti cars – designed to improve aerodynamics – mean the car's surface area is increased and, thus, the vehicles' interiors heat up more as a result of the increased solar load.
These unique challenges require extensive testing on Ms Lemke's part, with the engineer recalling how she took part in multiple test drives during the development of the new Chiron Pur Sport, which is a lighter, more agile version of the Chiron, boasting a top speed of 350km/h.
“Due to the increased engine speed in the Chiron Pur Sport of up to 6900 rpm, the main focus is on the proper functioning of the air conditioning compressor as an engine peripheral. This is why I take part in a lot of test drives to ensure the functionality of my system in all climatic conditions,” Ms Lemke explained.
"The air conditioning system is working best when occupants don’t notice it. We have to make sure there are no draughts or noise – only then does it make you feel comfortable,” she explains."
As part of her testing, Ms Lemke uses a variety of unique methods to track air flow, including wool threads, 3D simulation and smoke lances.
The 1118kW/1600Nm Bugatti Chiron is regarded as the fastest production car in the world after it recorded a speed of 304.77mph (490.48km/h) at the Ehra-Lessien test track in Germany in September 2019.
The handling-focused Divo, meanwhile, boasts outputs 1103kW and 1600 Nm, with 90kg more downforce than the Chiron and a top speed of 380km/h.