By on December 31, 2020

cabin air fliters

Cabin air filters in your car have been around for awhile, but recently companies promoting their ability to filter out the coronavirus have appeared. Is this even remotely possible?

According to the Society of Automotive Engineers, China’s Geely rolled out the Icon SUV in February, claiming its Intelligent Air Purification System (IAPS) was N95 certified, the filtration level necessary to block CV. Before the vehicle’s digital launch was over, 30,000 pre-orders were received.

cabin air filters

For an air-purification system to achieve CN95, it would need to reach 95 percent efficiency, the same as N95 masks health care workers use. Geely claimed the advanced filters in the Icon’s air-conditioning system had 95 percent efficiency to the 0.3-micron level, in addition to a bactericidal layer meant to inactivate and kill the virus. Really? Could even the most advanced cabin filtration system keep the virus out?

The SAE warned that effective ambient filtration would require pressurizing the cabin with HEPA-grade filtered air, much the same as what the airlines are claiming. But Geely admitted its cabins aren’t entirely sealed, and the moment the door or a window is opened, unfiltered air can enter.

cabin air filters

Modern cabin air filtration was first commercialized in 1957 in Germany by the Freudenberg Group. In 1989, the company began producing cabin filters for Mercedes-Benz, which led to annual sales in the millions and the position as the market leader in filtration. What we can’t see is CV flying around from someone coughing or sneezing, and unfortunately, the particle size is at the one-micron level that can be inhaled, making them especially dangerous.

High-efficiency particulate air, or HEPA, is best when it’s used in stationary applications like hospitals or industrial plants, not vacuum cleaners or other household products. Similarly, HEPA doesn’t work in automotive applications because air filtration in cars can’t be too restrictive or it will impede passenger comfort. Thus far, there are no verifiable lab tests to accompany any claims, nor are there rules as to how these filters can be applied for optimal results.

[Images: Geely]

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13 Comments on “Do Cabin Air Filters Combat COVID-19?...”

  • avatar

    I guess this would be useful if there happened to be one or more people who were prolifically shedding aerosol viruses had their faces nestled up against the ventilation intake at the base of the windshield, otherwise this would seem to be an irrelevant thing to point out.

  • avatar

    Little-known (and possibly incorrect) fact: Cabin air filters exist not to protect the occupants of a vehicle, but to protect those around you. Because of this, it is extremely selfish and short-sighted not to replace your cabin air filter on a regular basis (every two weeks might be perfect). [I checked with your dealer and they approved this message.]

    Filtered or unfiltered, enjoy those delicious volatile organic compounds offgassing from all the yummy plastics in your new vehicle. Free range, curated and extremely wholesome. [See, VOC has “organic” right there in the name.]

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    I have spent many days in combat vehicles at various M.O.P.P. levels. They involve presurization of the cabin, head to toe protective gear and an actual protective mask with a canister that requires changing at regular intervals. With respect to HVAC they run air through a tube to your suit which is also overpresurized.

    But yes, do go on believing that a little paper filter stuck somewhere in the airstream will protect you from biological threats. It is likely at least as effective as cutting up a T-Shirt and covering your mouth (and sometimes your nose). But you’ll feel better I guess.

    • 0 avatar

      The right way to do it in a passenger vehicle:

    • 0 avatar

      “But yes, do go on believing that a little paper filter stuck somewhere in the airstream will protect you from biological threats. ”

      It’s not about totally blocking it out. What you’re doing is attempting to lower the viral load to a point your body can fight it off. In the past, the paper filter and t-shirt has been enough most of the time. With the new mutations, who knows. But, it’s a battle of reducing the viral load to a point you can fight it off. In plain terms, the less spikey balls you inhale, the better.

      But, I do agree with you. A paper filter definitely won’t protect you from everything. You have to hope it reduces the hit to something you can survive. Just like vehicle armor against weapons.

      • 0 avatar

        Exactly. As my brother the doc says, it’s the viral load that counts. All those who got Covid-19 and just felt off for a few days thus claiming it’s all a big hoax, got a manageable viral load. Those who got a good gob of plague-laden spit croaked after their immune system went into overdrive causing internal swelling. That’s why masks help by reducing the viral load, not because they’re perfect filters. Have no idea why this hasn’t been explained properly.

  • avatar

    What can I say, drive alone in your big SUV. Today it is a patriotic thing to do.

  • avatar

    Not too sure how a bactericide helps kills a virus.

    • 0 avatar

      Disinfectant is probably a better term. The EPA maintains lists of products to kill specific pathogens. For example, List N lists Covid-19 products. Here’s a link to the tool to perform lookups:

  • avatar

    I would suggest putting mask on radiator. And keep safe distance on highway (3 seconds rule).

  • avatar

    Chinese maker makes a claim ? Not newsworthy.

    Your home has an air filter. If you go to the big box,you’ll see a whole lot of filters at different price points, claiming to filter pet dander, cigarette smoke, mites, etc….but that’s not why it is there.

    A filter is there to keep hair and dust out of the electric fan motor. Period. You don’t even need anything fancy, the thinner filters are just fine.

    In a car, the filter keeps crap out of the intake system, HVAC doors, and away from the blower motor…anything beyond that is marketing.

  • avatar

    If we’re talking about filtering air from outside the cabin, the average cabin air filter is probably as good as wearing a basic cloth mask. Not that it’s an issue given path that a virus-laden droplet has to take to get to the occupant(s).

    If we’re talking about filtering air recirculating inside the cabin, it matters a lot less than how quickly the air is turned over. The best filter in the world won’t do a damned thing if it takes 10 minutes to completely turnover all of the air in the vehicle.

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