By on January 26, 2017

Volkswagen Climate Windshield

Unless you live in a tropical climate year round, you’ve likely been forced to become a cold and pathetic vessel of sadness as you de-ice your windshield at 7:30 a.m. before spending the rest of your day filing TPS reports at a job you hate. Unfortunately, maxing out the defroster takes too long, and self-heating windscreens rely on always-visible filaments that range from slightly distracting to more bewildering than a BeDazzled pair of ’90s jorts, depending on how the light hits the wires.

Ford’s Quickclear — an option unavailable in the United States — is one of the better examples of heated glass. However, a passing car with strong headlights can illuminate the entire wire network, involuntarily influencing a person’s eyes to refocus numerous distances within a second or two.

Volkswagen’s new solution to the problem is to use a “wafer-thin electrically conductive layer of silver within the laminated glass” in lieu of traditional wires — and that means it’s invisible, ushering in a new golden era of automotive ownership for car owners often fraught with the burden of frost. 

While VW says the climate windshield is a “defrosting aid,” the system draws between 400 and 500 watts, or enough to nuke the bonds between glass and serious slabs of ice within minutes. The system has additional filaments near the bottom of the glass to prevent wipers from becoming clingier than that girl you met during your third year of university.

Benefits are not limited exclusively to winter, however. VW claims its invisible layer of silver reflects up to 60 percent of harsh, summertime rays, resulting in interior temperatures 15 degrees cooler versus conventional glass with green tinting.

Volkswagen is offering the filament-free windscreen as an optional extra on European models. There’s no word on the technology arriving in North America — but there’s a country with about 35 million people who we assume would happily pay the 340 Euros for the convenience.

[Image: Volkswagen]

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61 Comments on “VW’s Wireless Heated Windshield Uses Invisible Silver to Foil Frost...”


  • avatar
    Zackman

    Wow! It appears we’re one step closer to the “transparent aluminum” used to build the whale tank in “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”.

    Great news, indeed.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      While I always applaude real progress in terms of witnessing companies craft effective and efficient solutions to issues facing their customer base, this does not appear, at first glance, to be one of those cases.

      First, the existing windshield defrost setup works pretty effectively and quickly in most vehicles I’ve owned.

      Second, this is likely to be a VERY expensive windshield to replace with what will undoubtedly be a VAG proprietary windshield for a long time to come (driving insurance rates higher, also).

      Third, how will this even impact the ability to have the many, and often serious windshield stone chips repaired cheaply (can it even be done on these type of windshields)?

      VW may be wise to allocate more resources towards improving reliability, improving their warranty, Kr here’s a novel idea:

      Design/Produce a windshield that is highly resistant to incurring rock chips and such in the first place.

      p.s. – Whatever happened to Buick’s “hot shot” heated windshield fluid system?

      • 0 avatar
        MLS

        As I recall, GM issued a recall on the heated washer fluid systems after circuitry problems resulted in a few fires. The solution entailed permanently disabling the system. By that point, I believe the supplier had gone out of business, and GM dropped the option. Shame, because it seemed like a pretty decent idea.

        • 0 avatar
          derekson

          VWs have had heated washer fluid jets for years. My 2011 Jetta had them. AFAIK they were switched with the rear defroster or the heated mirrors, not sure which.

          • 0 avatar
            MLS

            The GM system heated the fluid itself to 100 degrees or something within 30 seconds so that it could melt any ice or frost on the windshield. Heated nozzles, on the other hand, are intended to prevent clogging. Indeed, they don’t get hot enough to meaningfully heat the washer fluid as it passes through.

      • 0 avatar
        1998redwagon

        @deadweight while it appears (ha!) that current (ha!) methods of defrosting work well enough i can tell you that i would appreciate the ability to defrost a windshield while *not* having to turn warm air upwards. my feet especially would appreciate that convenience.

        if i use defrost it is mostly while moving to keep the inside of the windshield defogged. initial start up is not as much of an issue for me.

        • 0 avatar
          JustPassinThru

          Something not-so-obvious, is how much “edge” is taken off the cold when there isn’t that refrigerated sheen radiating cold onto your face and the inside of the cabin.

          Again, I’ve seen it in locomotives. The cab heaters in those things are, except for the newest ones, marginal. The difference between “warm enough” and “heated birdcage” can be the heated front glass.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Did “hot shot” even work?

        I’d think it wouldn’t if you were in motion on a cold day.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        For decades JC Whitney used to offer a heated washer fluid kit which consisted of a short section of metal tubing that you inserted in the heater hose. Smaller tubing for the washer fluid was coiled around the larger tube. Seems to me if you waiting until the engine was up to temp that hot fluid on the cold glass was asking for a problem. If it didn’t cause a problem with a good windshield I’m pretty sure it would make any existing crack grow quickly.

      • 0 avatar
        ttacgreg

        Herein Colorado’s snow belt that “sand” they use on the roads that can be rocks up to 1/4 inch chunkers makes windshields disposable, and potentially annual replacements, I have to wonder just how expensive the replacements would be.

        On another note, the old Taurus and GM hoover vacuum van’s metallic windshields were known to render radar detectors mute.

    • 0 avatar
      cdotson

      Zackman,

      Transparent aluminum exists. The patent for its production predates Star Trek IV by 6 years.

    • 0 avatar
      FordMan_48126

      To DW’s point, these systems are not really needed anymore, anyway. My MKC came with remote start, and you can adjust the remote start to have the HVAC system set a certain way, such as have defrost come on full blast high heat as the car warms up after activating remote start. As I am in the Great Lake state, this comes very much in handy during winter. In summer, it can be set to have A/C come on.

      Most other brands’ remote start functions in the same way, and this feature is moving on down the price food chain to become either standard or as part of popular option packages on compact and sub-compact models, too. Don’t really see a need for this anymore for majority of people…

  • avatar
    VoGo

    Wafer thin silver? Didn’t the Taurus 30 years ago use wafer-thin gold filaments?

    Waiting for Mini to come out with wafer-thin mints.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Yes the Taurus had the Insta-Clear windshield in its first generation.

    • 0 avatar
      BigOldChryslers

      Yes, Lincolns used this technology briefly as well. It’s not new, unless VW has figured out how to do it cheaper.

      The early Quickclear/Instaclear windshield may have used filaments, but some used a layer of silver/zinc oxide in the windshield to heat it.

      Cost was a big issue. I read that some insurance companies, once they found out how much those windshields cost to replace, told customers that their windshields would not be covered under the normal glass coverage in their policies.

      • 0 avatar
        John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

        Yes, my 1986 Taurus LX had it. Which was fortunate, since the heater core had failed and was bypassed. (Hey, I paid $200 for the car and it had more miles than the space shuttle, its amazing that it still ran and moved under its own power at all!)

        But, yes, cost was the issue, I think a new windshield with InstaClear was well over a grand. Most went back with regular windshields when theirs needed to be replaced.

        • 0 avatar
          True_Blue

          Don’t try mounting an EZ Pass or RFID tag on one of these windshields unless they have cutouts for the chip, it’s a Faraday panel.

          • 0 avatar
            la834

            Also, it drastically hampered your radar detector’s sniffing ability.

          • 0 avatar
            BigOldChryslers

            Don’t forget about GPS units. It would probably piss off a lot of people if they couldn’t get GPS reception. Of course the new cars that have this windshield probably have it bundled with a package that includes an in-dash GPS.

  • avatar
    kcflyer

    I worked as a parts runner at a Ford dealership years ago. I remember the orange hue the heated windshields on the Taurus had. I also remember one of the mechanics telling me he had to break the news to a customer that his rock chip was going to cost him nearly $2000 in the form of a new windshield if he wanted to replace it with another heated unit. The customer opted for a traditional windshield. Hopefully VW has cracked the code on a cheaper alternative because I would love to have this feature in all my cars for a reasonable price.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      Yes, I remember those windshields. I didn’t realize they were so expensive to replace. I remember seeing a few of them on ’80s Crown Vics.

    • 0 avatar
      1998redwagon

      i recall taurus’ with orange glow to the windshield and just thought it was some oddball tint – like yellow for shooting glasses. thanks for explaining that one.

      and based on a discussion of replacement price it is no wonder i do not see those around much anymore. $2000 for a windshield or say $500 the choice is yours. easy.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    It’s just a resistive element, not very complex.

    It may just be controlled by a fuse like a rear window defroster, or the controller may track resistance and throw a code if it’s out of range (in addition to a fusible link, of course).

    Given the simplicity of the design, it’s not very likely to fail, but it’s permanently bonded to the windshield that does occasionally need to be replaced.

  • avatar
    JustPassinThru

    This technology has been used for decades with railway locomotive glass…maybe aircraft glass, too, but I’m not familiar with that industry. Current is run through a metallic film to warm the glass.

    …warm? I should say HEAT. The biggest problem is when automatic controls get old and the glass overheats, literally melting the surface of the windshield wiper blade.

    It is expensive. On a $5 million-dollar locomotive with a service life of over 20 years, it’s fully acceptable. On a consumer good, maybe not so much.

    And of course it will require a hardy electrical system. The logical candidates for this would be these new AWD units with electrical drive on the non-primary drive axles.

    It would seem to be time, now, to get rid of a bunch of peripheries – coolant pump, belt-driven air-conditioner, oil pump – and replace them with electric units, to provide full-flow constant oil and coolant and constant-speed A/C compressors. And instead have a large-capacity direct-drive alternator.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    I have a plug in hybrid, and can set the car to preheat the interior. Doing that also defrosts the windows.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    The film will block the signals your radar detector depends on to warn you about speed traps. You would need a detector with a remote sensor.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    Don’t forget your extended warranty.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Great idea, I needed this the other night in the Pacific NW.

    A 10-15 minute drive home took 25 minutes.

    • 0 avatar
      John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

      I thought the weather world wide was exactly like that in Australia. Ya know, how nobody uses 4wd for snow, its ONLY for rock crawling and stump jumping.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        WTF?

        I know in Australia if you don’t suitable tyres and or chains you are stopped when driving in the snow or on real icy roads.

        But, hey you are a Frod phan boi troll.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Sounds like an interesting idea but if my Jetta is any indication, VW needs to work on the rear window first…it has the wimpiest rear defroster in automobiledom. The ones on the side windows work beautifully, though.

  • avatar
    whitworth

    My first thought as well was high replacement costs for something we already have an effective solution for.

    I’m sure the aftermarket though will simply make one without this feature and make it costs effective, I have a Lexus that a factory windshield with some special coatings is like $1,500 or a Pilkington (OEM for several automakers) was like $150. Guess which I picked?

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Wireless heated windshield using invisible silver from VAG?

    Nothing could possible go wrong here, ever.

    This is like a Mad Lib of automotive options.

    Your _______ _________ windshield which uses _______ to ______ the windshield, is being offered from the _______ brand.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Why can’t we use the same thin, solid elements that the rear windows use in front? I suspect I’m missing something obvious, but a few thin lines ought not to be an issue.

  • avatar
    JustPassinThru

    Visibility standards. First, they mostly clear only lines, not the full glass. There would have to be a secondary forced-warm-air defroster.

    Then there’s the strands in the view area. And then, it may be that under bright sunlight, those reflect glare to the interior…to the driver’s eye.

    You don’t notice those on the rear because you’re not constantly looking at the rear. And when you HAVE to look through the rear, you’re moving backwards at walking speed.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Two things:

      First a reply to the main post, noting that AFAIK the Ford “QuickClear” system is the same system Volvo uses (dating back to their investment in Volvo?), and in that form *is* available in the US.

      Second, as someone with that system in his XC70, it doesn’t clear lines, it clears almost the whole windshield (it doesn’t cover the lower sides, but those are not important for visibility).

      The wires are *very* close together, maybe 1/4″ or less. No gaps in the thawing.

      *Brilliant* for frost or loosening ice.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        (Re. Visibility, it’s no worse than a little water on the windshield even at night with incoming headlights.

        Typically you never even notice them driving, worst I’ve seen is some “sparkle” in a halo around headlights – and as someone who wears glasses, it’s … pretty marginal in terms of optical issues.)

        • 0 avatar
          JustPassinThru

          I’m sure it was considered. Remember, the 1995 ChryCo minivans had that three-inch strip at the base, with wires, to heat the glass where the wipers parked.

          Even THAT was discontinued. Daimler’s penny-pinching surely was part of it, but probably not all of it.

          It’s an obvious solution, and there’s surely reasons why it hasn’t been done. But it hasn’t been and probably won’t be.

          Maybe an auto engineer could enlighten us. Maybe the TTAC staff could contact an automaker with the question.

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            Both of our cars have heating strips for the wipers, and they were made by different (unrelated) companies in different decades.

            I didn’t realize that it was a rare thing.

          • 0 avatar
            JustPassinThru

            What models were those? The only one I’m aware of is Chrysler minivans, 1995 to 2000.

  • avatar
    Jagboi

    Ford first offered this as the Instaclear option from 1974-76. They had problems making the glass reliably so it was discontinued. It drew a lot of power, so cars with that option had a second alternator just for the windshield.

    Next time was in 1986 on the Taurus and Panthers, and lasted until 1994. It’s a gold foil (yes, real gold) laminated to the polyester center of the windshield. if you got the light right, the whole windshield looked gold, just like the space shuttle.

    The other company to offer heated windshields is Jaguar. They first experimented with them about 1972, but it wasn’t offered as a regular option until the XJ40 in 1987. From them onward it has always been an option in selected markets until today. Typically not in the USA, but it was always part of the cold weather pack in Canada.

    Unlike Ford, the Triplex windshields in Jaguars used very fine wires to generate the heat. They are pretty much invisible, unless you are looking for them. The best way is on a cloudy day, and look against the sky then you can see them, but normally they are invisible.

    I love a heated windshield, I never scrape frost so the glass doesn’t get scratched from the inevitable dirt and grit that is in the frost. It can clear the windshield of light frost or mist before the car warms up, so I don’t have to turn the defroster on and get blasted with cold air until the engine warms up.

    One trip I did across the prairies was -43C outside. At 110 km/h the heater simply can’t keep up to keep the glass free of frost. Just breathe the wrong way and the glass frosts over on the inside. It’s common here to keep a scraper in the car to scrape the frost off the inside when it’s that cold. However, turn on the heated windshield and it all melts. It’s wonderful!

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      “One trip I did across the prairies was -43C outside. At 110 km/h the heater simply can’t keep up to keep the glass free of frost. Just breathe the wrong way and the glass frosts over on the inside.”

      Must have had poor airflow out of the defrost vents. I’ve only encountered a similar issue with my Mazda3. It tended to leave a fog film in front of both the driver and passenger because the defrost air only hits the center of the windshield. I covered the center of the vent with a piece of black plastic cut from a crazy carpet to divert air in front of the occupants instead.

      http://www.mazda3forums.com/95-maintenance-care/355431-clear-up-fog.html

      I would make use of a heated windshield hundreds of times every year. I avoid idling my car and it would be nice to have a clear windshield before the coolant is up to adequate temperature for defrosting.

      I’m not sure I’d pay the replacement cost if I needed to replace the windshield, but this feature would probably be worth $500 to me on a new vehicle. I tend to get at least ten years out of a windshield since I avoid following other vehicles closely and don’t go anywhere near large trucks except during very short bursts while passing, so I’d see it as a one-time additional cost to enjoy some luxury while the car is fairly new.

      • 0 avatar
        Jagboi

        On my Jaguar X Type a replacement heated windshield was ~$650 Canadian. I don’t know what a non heated one would have cost. Around here windshields last about 2 years on average mainly because of the gravel that is put on the roads in winter. It doesn’t take much to get cracks in the cold.

  • avatar
    210delray

    One of the many advantages of having a garage! And it never gets cold enough in central VA for frost to be a problem on the move.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    Pffft, If I wanted a car with a heated windshield that will actually stand the test of time, Ill find an Olds 98 Touring.

  • avatar
    stuki

    Man, I guess it’s cold out there these days…

    Something as simple as getting ice and fog off the windshield, has befuddled engineers for about as long as cars have had windshields.

    Just today I talked to someone who has been dabbling with a dual pane windshield with a powerful heater to keep the argon (or whatever) between the layers heated :) Didn’t seem particularly affordable to fix after a stone chip, either…

    High frequency vibrations akin to digital camera sensor cleaners, but of the whole windshield, is another “solution” I have heard mentioned. Sounds better suited to the future, when all that needs to be kept ice free, are the smaller lens shields through which the autonomous “driver” views the world…

    And then there are flaming hot windshield wiper blades and washer fluid kept at boiling tenps….

    None of which have managed to compete with something as stoneage as a frozen dude with a cheap plastic scraper. Kind of makes you wonder about the same engineers trying to replace the same dude at every other task he does with his car, once the scraping is done :)

  • avatar

    If the goal is to get warmth to the windshield quickly, I don’t understand why automakers don’t just install a small electric strip heater in the dashboard where the windshield vent(s) are. It would be nearly as instant as wire defrosters, but without the visibility issues those incur.

    Some home heating systems have this setup — gas heat with an electrical strip for “recovery quick heating”… And of course diesels often have an addition set of glow plugs in the coolant to speed up the warming up process… so why not just move the heat to where it’s needed, at the vent?

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Specialized semi-exotic but not really technology from VAG. What could possibly go wrong…

  • avatar

    Always wondered why no one thought to place a ceramic heating element in with the heater core – on the “interior” side of air flow – that would heat the air used for defrost until the engine temp reached a certain temp at which point it would automatically turn off – or be turned off manually. The fan speed would default – or be forced – to a medium low setting while the element is on/heated. (That may not be needed depending on the heat available from the ceramic element.) The porous ceramic element could be placed in the defrost ducts and do the same thing (possibly a better placement).

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