Window photo by Flickr user Jose Palad
early 2009, now critics of California's Air Resources Board (CARB) are at it again. This time the concern is that glazed windows that block 45 to 60 percent of the energy from the sun from entering a vehicle will cause cell phones, GPS devices and even ankle bracelets for parolees to be adversely affected.
The goal is to keep cars cooler so that less air conditioning is used. Automobile manufacturers are proposing a different standard, that would require automotive glass to "absorb" rather than "reflect" energy.
It would seem to me that there is middle ground to be found in this debate. For example, climate controlled seats that both heat and cool have been shown to reduce the use of air conditioning. Seat materials can also play an important role. BMW offers sun reflective seats in its convertibles that helps to keep the chairs from frying your skin. There is also the new Prius which has on optional solar powered fan to vent the car when parked, something the Mazda 929 offered years ago.
In testing cars, I have found a wide range of intelligence in HVAC systems. Some cars rarely need to be tuned, using sensors, algorithms and properly tuned airflow to always make occupants feel comfortable while other systems seem to blast hot or cold air in your general direction and hope for the best. It would seem to me that such optimized systems could also cut down on the use of the AC compressor.
Using a cell phone inside of a car is already the subject of some concern, besides the obvious distraction issues, as radiation can be reflected back inside the vehicle. Perhaps this new window glazing requirement could act as a driver for the installation of repeaters inside the vehicle that would collect the cell phone signal and use the car's exterior antenna to improve signal quality and allow the cell phone to operate at lower power levels. Everybody wins!
CARB certainly does have a way of getting under people's skin and undoubtedly manufacturers do have some valid points. However, I sincerely doubt that we will all be driving around in "radio wave free" boxes that prevent any modern day gadgets from working, but should that day even come would it be the worst thing?