How Heat Managed Pigments Reduce Car Interior Temperature

We have all been conditioned to timidly enter our cars on a hot, sunny day. Why? Because we have come to expect the overwhelming waft of heat that escapes as the door opens along with the unpleasant 'burn' we experience as our hands and legs touch the seat or hot dash.

Thankfully, engineers now have access to solutions that will reduce these effects.

There's new heat management technology that can keep car interiors cool even on the hottest of days, regardless of the vehicle's color - even black!

Carbon black, which is the most commonly used black pigment in the automotive industry, absorbs near infrared radiation (NIR) that accounts for more than 50 percent of the total incident of solar energy. As a result, its surface heats up quickly.

BASF's heat management solutions are able to reflect or transmit the same level of radiation with very low levels of absorption, without sacrificing the rich carbon black pigment color. These pigments are applied to the material, which can lead to a decrease of up to 15 to 20°C in surface temperature, when compared to carbon black surfaces.

Heat management optimized car interior

There is a great deal of design flexibility for automobile engineers, especially since the technology is pigment-based. It can be applied to the materials of the vehicle and ultimately reduce the surface temperature of each - be it the vehicle dashboard, door panels, arm rest, sun shade or any of the other interior surfaces.

The convertible, the car designed for the sunniest of days, was a natural fit for heat management applications.

Convertible car interior parts heat up very quickly due to their direct exposure to the sun. Consequently, many auto manufacturers equip their cars with heat managed leather seats, with heat managed seats made from artificial leather or with heat managed fibers and textiles. Heat managed arm rests or steering wheel covers are used widely as well.

"I'm sure, in the near future, it will not only be convertibles that benefit from a heat management optimized car interior, but a lot of other cars too," said Dr. Guenter Scherer, Marketing Pigments for Plastics, Solar Heat Management.

In fact, Volkswagen and BASF worked collaboratively to prototype a dashboard using such heat managed black pigments and displayed it in 2013 at K-Fair, the world's no. 1 trade fair for plastics and rubber.

BASF’s heat managed pigments used in the interior of a Volkswagen prototype.

BASF’s heat managed pigments used in the interior of a Volkswagen prototype.

The possibilities are endless.

Aside from reducing surface temperature, heat managed surfaces also can contribute to a 5°C (or more) reduction in overall interior temperature. Furthermore, typical car interior surfaces face quicker polymer aging and degradation due to fluctuating and high temperatures. Both are lessened with the use of these cool pigments.

Reduced heating effect on the exterior 

This also holds true for the exterior of the vehicle. Less heat uptake means lower temperatures and higher dimension stability for exterior parts or films.

"There are numerous requests for these types of solutions, especially in the parts of the world where there is a lot of sun intensity, not only in China and India, but also in the southern part of the United States or Europe or South America, said Scherer. "We're trying to make the place where people spend a lot of their time more comfortable and safer by enabling technology that will allow the interior of cars to be less sensitive to external temperatures."

These solutions should not just be a consideration in the luxury market but for automakers around the world, suggests Scherer. After all, no one wants to feel like a sunny-side-up egg after touching their car interior on a hot day.