Think Turning Off A/C In a Car And Opening Its Windows Saves Fuel – Think Again!

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Members of the SAE International Interior Climate Control Standards Committee authored an article discussing fuel consumption. The choice involves drivers' and passengers' comfort.

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The energy required to provide comfort in a vehicle depends on many factors such as the load on the A/C system is a function of the fan setting, the outside ambient and humidity, and the speed of the vehicle among other variables.

Members of the SAE International Interior Climate Control Standards Committee authored an article discussing fuel consumption. The choice involves drivers' and passengers' comfort. There are many factors that impact how much fuel is used, including the specific vehicle fuel use (MPG rating) for the type of driving and the temperature and humidity conditions.

Consumers continue to be concerned about the fuel consumption of their vehicles. Many are not aware of the impact of accessories on this fuel consumption. Vehicle air conditioning (A/C) is one of the highest energy consuming accessories and has become standard equipment for vehicles.

The energy required to provide comfort in a vehicle depends on many factors such as the load on the A/C system is a function of the fan setting, the outside ambient and humidity, and the speed of the vehicle among other variables. The fuel consumption of the A/C will vary greatly depending on the weather conditions that prevail in a given area and also on the traffic patterns that are typical of a given city.

Comparing the use of a vehicle A/C system to a home air conditioning system may help consumers to understand why vehicle A/C can have such a large impact on fuel consumption. Consumers expect the vehicle A/C system to provide nearly instant relief after a hot soak in the summer sun. Home air conditioning usually runs continuously during the day, even if it may be set back at times to save energy. The demand and expectations of the consumer of the vehicle air conditioning system to provide comfort and maintain driver’s alertness may require increasing the system cooling capacity resulting in larger energy demands.

Depending upon many factors, the energy requirements when operating or shutting off the A/C system and opening the vehicle’s windows could be very similar.

To learn more about this article, visit: http://www.sae.org/standardsdev/tsb/cooperative/mobile_ac.pdf.

SAE International is a global association committed to being the ultimate knowledge source for the engineering profession. By uniting over 137,000 engineers and technical experts, we drive knowledge and expertise across a broad spectrum of industries. We act on two priorities: encouraging a lifetime of learning for mobility engineering professionals and setting the standards for industry engineering. We strive for a better world through the work of our philanthropic SAE Foundation, including programs like A World in Motion® and the Collegiate Design Series™.

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Shawn Andreassi
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