By on August 7, 2008

\"DOE tests conclude ventilated seats keep vehicle occupants cooler, so they consequently reduce the use of the vehicle’s air conditioning system to achieve the desired level of comfort.\" (courtesy subscribers.wardsauto.com)In our ongoing campaign to put TTAC at the forefront of automotive journalism, we've decided to go behind the headlines, to provide the kind of insight and perspective that you can't get elsewhere, if only because no one else could be bothered. That's because we know many of our Best and Brightest are just as geeky and OCD as we are. More charitably, what miserly or environmentally conscious pistonhead wouldn't want to know about thermal seat management? After all, as the DOE discovered, if you use less AC, you save mpgs! In any case, here's my interview with Dan Coker, President and CEO of Amerigon, the world's premier supplier of heated and cooled seat technology. For those of you who aren't podcast-compatible, the bottom line: the cool-your-butt business is booming. Amerigon's up to $75m turnover this year. It's an American success story, human ingenuity at its finest, coming to a Sealy Posturpedic near you soon.  

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25 Comments on “TTAC Investigates Thermal Butt Management...”


  • avatar
    NickR

    Thermal butt management was a perfect opportunity for more cheerleaders and you blew it.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    I do love heated seats but now that mine only works sporadically and I’ve learned to cope with meager AC, I’m longing for a seat that doesn’t weigh 80lbs and which holds me very tight.

  • avatar
    RFortier1796

    I used to work at a BMW dealership…the ass coolers on the M5 were heavenly on days when it was 110 with 98% Humidity and not a cloud in the sky…

  • avatar
    seoultrain

    So what’s the cheapest car that has cooled seating available? Off the top of my head the lowest I can come up with is the Infiniti M35 @ $44k, where it’s standard.

    edit: found that you can get it on the top-of-the-line Avalon at $36k. Also Lexus ES at similar price.

  • avatar
    thalter

    I gotta admit, I love the ventilated seats in my Lexus. Once you’ve experienced them, you are going to want them (especially if your seats have been sitting in direct sunlight all day). No matter how good the A/C is in your car, it can’t reach your backside.

    seoultrain: You can get them as part of the Luxury package on the IS250 for about 35K combined, or a pinch more on the IS350/ES350 lux pkg.

  • avatar

    Seat coolers are a must-add to all future cars. I can imagine a future generation, my children’s children, giggling at the concept of all us old timers sitting in our cars with sweaty asses, cranking up the A/C to cool our faces while the rest of us suffers.

    “Ha ha! Oh granpappy,” they will say, “whysoever didn’t you have the holo-salesman add seat coolers in your hovercar when you were younger? Didn’t your jumpsuit cling and feel uncomfortable with sweat?”

    And I will look at them knowingly from my hoverrascal and just shake my head. “Come, Futurebob, let’s play blurnsball and forget all about the many discomforts of my youth.”

  • avatar
    JJ

    Great stuff.

    Seriously, I think cooled seats are one of the better, more useful newish car luxury gadgets of (relatively) late, way better than rearview cameras, infra-red vision projection (although that’s cool as a technology in a car in itself) and that other thing best described as a package of extra height, weight and usually four wheel drive.

    It’s probably healthy for you (and your concentration) as well, stimulating blood flow to the brain instead of the skin etc. Maybe some follow up on that on TTAC would be nice.

  • avatar
    AKM

    Funny. People want leather. Then, because leather gets hot, they want cooling seats.

    Just stick with cloth and everything will be fine. Just as comfy, doesn’t burn your thighs, and holds you far better than cowskin. What’s not to love?

    My personal favorite option is glassroofs, especially if merging with windshields. The impression of space it gives is just plain fantastic. Only issue, it’s heavy; top-heavy. Hopefully they will soon be made out of plexiglass or equivalent.

  • avatar

    how much does this add to the weight of the car?

  • avatar
    Axel

    Actually a back cooler would be more important to me. I get paranoid about what pressing a sweat-soaked shirt into a car seat repeatedly does to the fabric over the course of years. So much so that I scoot forward a bit so my back is no longer in contact.

    Maybe if I drove shirtless…

  • avatar
    Ryan Knuckles

    You can pick up a lightly used Lincoln LS with Heat/AC seats for less than $20K. That was my plan until my wife vetoed it :)

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Just stick with cloth and everything will be fine. Just as comfy, doesn’t burn your thighs, and holds you far better than cowskin. What’s not to love?
    Truth. I like leather seats in principle and they resist spills and stains well, but it’s true that, for long-distance comfort a good cloth seat wins every time.

    A nice compromise, if one must, is something like the hybrid cloth/leather seats in my 9-3SE: leather trim on the outside and back, cloth in the middle. This allows the look of leather, but allows more comfort where you actually sit. Plus, cloth doesn’t deform with use.

    Another nice option is the YES fabric in most Chryslers and/or that odd weave in the Escape Hybrid. They breathe well, but aren’t as lint-happy as cloth and seem much more durable–even if they look really cheap.

    The worst is suede: it has all the worst attributes of cloth and leather: hot, wears badly yet also grips clothes and accumulates lint.

  • avatar
    Cicero

    If all Americans would commit to setting their ass thermostats to 78 degrees, we would save the amount of oil that could be produced in ANWR and the continental shelf.

  • avatar
    mmdpg

    I had the fan “ventilated” seats in my 06 Avalon. I thought they were almost useless. The air came out where your body wasn’t, so whatever parts of you that were hot and pressed up against the seat stayed that way. The air would slowly filter out between your legs but still it only moved the same temperature air that was in the cabin. If the seat had real cooling coils in it (I think some much higher end cars do) that may work.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    Cooled seats? Heated seats? I’ll take a lighter weight car instead. Then again, I’ve never owned a car with leather anything!

    And here I was thinking a sportbike stock seat for 4+ hours wasn’t as bad as everyone says….

  • avatar
    yankinwaoz

    What’s wrong with sheepskin seat covers? I find they work pretty well. Save your money and get cheap cloth seats with the car. Then buy good quality sheep skin seat covers for them.

  • avatar
    Beelzebubba

    I just wish more cars were available with heated CLOTH seats. The black cloth/nylon-esque seats in my Mazda3 feel pretty dang chilly in 30 degree weather! The only vehicles that have HEATED CLOTH seats are the VW Rabbit, Saturn Aura and Volvo C30/S40/S60 and, surprisingly, the Hyundai Elantra SE.

    Here in Georgia, cooled seats would probably be even more useful. My cousing recently bought a new Lincoln MKZ and I love the climate controlled seats…good thing since the car is black inside and out!

    I’m very glad that I skipped the optional leather in my Mazda3 Touring (unlike the Grand Touring, they were the non-heated variety). The problem is compounded by the fact that black is the only interior color available if you want leather…ouch!

  • avatar
    Mullholland

    The value play for cooled seats? IMO it’s something like a 2003 Lincoln Navigator currently on e-bay w/48k miles. The bidding starts at $10,000.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Two years ago, after years, nay decades, of driving in closth seat hell, I got my first set of leather seats in my Audi A6….IMHO, and I am sure I will be plastered by the PETA crowd, a good set of hide seats is the way to go. Here in Michigan in the winter, my bunwarmers sure are a comfort in the winter. Haven’t had the privilege of driving in a car with bumchillers, but sounds like decadent heaven to me….a few years back, I would have kneejerked my way to a reaction condemning the concept of cooled seats as a sign that we are all going to hell the proverbial hand basket. On further review, if having bum chillers causes the mass of drivers to turn off the AC on all but the hottest days, thus improving global achieved mileage efficiency, I am for it.

    Next improvement will logically be two different settings for each seat….cool for the bum, but warm for the back, ya know, for after the workout….whoops, maybe I should have patented that idea before putting it out on this blog….

  • avatar
    davey49

    People with limited motion like leather seats because it is easier to slip in and out of the seat.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I just wish more cars were available with heated CLOTH seats. The black cloth/nylon-esque seats in my Mazda3 feel pretty dang chilly in 30 degree weather! The only vehicles that have HEATED CLOTH seats are the VW Rabbit, Saturn Aura and Volvo C30/S40/S60 and, surprisingly, the Hyundai Elantra SE.

    The Kia Rondo has them as well, but yes, you have a point. My 9-3 has heated cloth and I really appreciate it, and it’s not possible to get cloth at all on some luxury cars, just leather/leatherette (bad) or leather/alcantara/suede (worse).

    Yeah, cloth is cold, but cold leather is far, far worse. And hot cloth is nothing like the feel of sun-kissed leather seats. I’m very glad long shorts are in fashion.

  • avatar
    Rix

    For durability, leather wins hides down. I am very pleased with the leather seats in my WRX- I had them done by an aftermarket place for about $500 and they are excellent.

  • avatar
    gustavo

    mmdpg — this isn’t a “ventilated” system. it actually cools the air using a thermolectric. they talk about it in the interview. the picture above also shows this.

  • avatar
    houston67

    My 2008 Mazda 3 Hatchback has heated cloth seats. For some reason they’re standard on the Canadian GT model, yet unavailable in the US. I use them almost year round. I love them.

  • avatar
    Ralph SS

    Oh, trust me….my seats are always ventilated.

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