Infra-red heaters, often used for customer comfort in outdoor dining areas during winter, will be help save energy in the cabin of the new Lexus RZ electric SUV that goes on sale in Australia and New Zealand mid-year.
Rather than warming the air, the infra-red panels in the RZ heat only solid objects in their line of sight, reduces energy consumption by about eight per cent as it warms front occupants more quickly and delivers heat only where required, reducing the load on the car’s HVAC system
Lexus describes the sensation from using the RZ’s infra-red panels as “similar to having a warm blanket placed around legs on a cold day”.
“This is achieved by hiding the two radiant heaters at knee-level, behind the lower instrument and steering column panels.”
Lexus does not specify whether standard cabin heating in the RZ uses a heat pump or not but that the infra-red system enables it to be used “more modestly” and is offered in addition to the heated seats and heated steering wheel.
Directly applying heat to vehicle occupants’ bodies via heated seats and steering wheels is more energy-efficient than warming the air, a concept also demonstrated by component supplier ZF’s heated seatbelts (more on that in the upcoming print edition of SightGlass).
Finding ways to more efficiently provide cabin comfort is critical in electric vehicles as the energy drain can seriously impact battery range, compounding the performance deficit low temperatures can cause in existing battery technologies.
In the new RZ, a multi-zone cabin comfort controller called Lexus Climate Concierge will automatically adjust the infra-red panels, heated seats and heated steering wheel, as well as the HVAC system, ”to ensure optimal thermal comfort” for all occupants.