Confidence in autonomous and rideshare mobility took a significant dive in 2020, as consumers shunned public transport due to the coronavirus pandemic. Technologies to safeguard the health and safety of vehicle occupants can begin to restore that confidence. Industry suppliers are developing a broad array of solutions to address these concerns; some promising ideas include:
Yanfeng’s UV-C Sanitizer
Interior supplier Yanfeng has developed a cabin-cleansing system that uses ultraviolet-C (UV-C) light to effectively cleanse vehicle cabin air and contact surfaces. The UV Sanitizer can kill 99.9% of all bacteria and viruses, including the COVID-19 virus, according to the company. Yanfeng engineers have packaged the UV Sanitizer in a low-profile “wellness” module (top) to fit most vehicle-headliner applications. Currently the product is being shown in concept interiors; there is no word on production plans.
It is worth noting here that UV-C light sources are both carcinogenic and cataractogenic when directed toward human tissue. This restricts their applications to when the cabins are unoccupied. Hope, however, springs from a 2018 study by the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University’s Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) that showed “far-UV-C” light (in a narrow 207-222-nm bandwidth) efficiently inactivates bacteria without harm to exposed mammalian skin. Clearly, UV-C technologies are not quite ready for mobility-industry deployment.
Marelli’s COVID-killing HVAC
Marelli North America is tackling the problem of interior air quality in AVs and other shared-use vehicles with innovative HVAC technology. It’s a photocatalytic system using both UV-A and UV-C sources that shine on a titanium dioxide-impregnated filter. In testing within a 1.0 m³ (35 ft³) chamber, the photocatalytic HVAC has demonstrated >99% virus-killing performance within 15 minutes.
Marelli is aiming the HVAC system at taxis, ambulances and autonomous-driving vehicles in development, as well as a retrofit package. R&D continues to reduce weight, improve durability and cut power consumption. A third-generation HVAC unit now in development uses LED bulbs operating at 5-V and 12-V DC. While UV-C light can be generated by fluorescent, xenon and even laser sources, LED is becoming a preferred light source due to its lower cost and power consumption.
Get to know grēnlite
GHSP, a global supplier of electromechanical systems for the mobility industry, is touting its “grēnlite” technology designed to disinfect vehicle surfaces and cabin air including those containing coronavirus pathogens. The technology uses the proven and increasingly popular UV-C light wavelength, along with GHSP’s patented UV Angel technology – integrated smart sensors that detect when a vehicle is unoccupied and automatically emits a dose of UV-C light for each cleaning cycle. The programmable system, showcased in a Ford Transit van during CES 2020, is designed to meet vehicle-impact requirements and is virtually maintenance free, according to the Grand Haven, Michigan-based company.
Lost in the ozone
Magna engineers seeking an effective way to clean their sons’ stinky ice-hockey gear came up with a solution that also scores big against vehicle cabin bacteria and viruses lurking within. It’s a portable, tub-like ozone-generating unit that carries Magna’s “Puro” brand. When prototypes proved effective in eradicating germs from a variety of consumer products, the company’s immediate attention turned to using the ozone machine to help ease the shortage of personal protection equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers. The concept soon migrated to the task of sanitizing ride-share and autonomous vehicles.
The Puro ozone machine runs on 120-V household current. Its 25- or 45-minute sanitizing cycle is selected via an LED user interface. Operation is controlled by Magna-developed software. Once the disinfection process is initiated, the sealed chamber generates a high ozone concentration by energizing the oxygen particles on the items inside the container. The ozone reverts back to oxygen before the cycle ends.
No fungus among us
Increased demand in the mobility industry for textiles with antimicrobial or antibacterial properties is anticipated by materials analysts, a result of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic and the attention it has brought to greater occupant hygienic safety and odor-reduction. Nanotechnology used in the industrial-textiles industry, particularly silver (Ag) nanoparticles, has proven effective against a range of bacteria when applied to the textile surface. Interior-supply stalwart Lear Corp., through its Guilford Performance division, offers automotive-spec antimicrobial fabrics and leather that resist viruses and bacteria, as well as mold and fungus, the company claims.