They laugh no more, although here’s something new and seemingly funny: heated seatbelts.
ZF, the German company known best for building transmissions, has apparently warmed up to the idea, claiming that such a contraption can actually increase the driving range of electric vehicles. During cold weather, ZF engineers say, “The system may increase range by up to 15 percent by reducing the energy required to heat the interior of the vehicle quickly."
The idea is that a heated belt wrapped around one’s tummy — “the upper body and pelvic area” — combined with heated seats, allows the EV’’s occupants to feel more comfortable more quickly. Battery current that would have been siphoned off for general heating of the cabin is instead reserved for propulsion. Warmth would radiate from the belts and the seats (and from the heated steering wheel too, we presume, although that's not been mentioned).
Small wires to conduct heat are woven directly into the belt structure like threads. The contact elements for the electrical heating circuits are positioned in such a way that they do not interfere with either the operation of the belt or the retractor. If there's a way to control the belt's temperature, that's not explained.
In terms of occupant protection, the heated belts are no different from conventional systems, ZF says.
Skeptical? Heated seats are obviously pleasant and effective, but heated seatbelts wouldn't seem to offer enough of a contact patch on your body to really matter. There's no word on when this hot item might appear or who's signed up for it, but ZF says the heated belts are “in demand” from a number of automakers. Check back here in a couple of years.
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