Do Cabin Air Filters Combat COVID-19?

Jason R. Sakurai
by Jason R. Sakurai
do cabin air filters combat covid 19

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.

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.

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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  • Speedlaw Speedlaw on Jan 02, 2021

    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.

  • Notapreppie Notapreppie on Jan 04, 2021

    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.

  • ToolGuy CXXVIII comments?!?
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.
  • ToolGuy Is it a genuine Top Hand? Oh, I forgot, I don't care. 🙂