ZF's Heat Belt: Nice for drivers and range
German parts supplier ZF Group’s heated seat belt promises to increase driver comfort in cold weather and even conserve battery range in electric vehicles in the process.
The Heat Belt contains conductors woven into the fabric that can warm it up to 96 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit within minutes of the vehicle starting. It’s a simple innovation for a better driving experience in the cold, but it also offers improved EV performance and safety. Staff Reporter John Irwin spoke with Harald Lutz, ZF’s senior vice president responsible for the company’s passive safety division, to learn how. Here are edited excerpts.
Q: How does the Heat Belt work?
A: It’s a very simple thing. Isolated wires are woven, in a specific process, into the seat belt. By applying energy to those conductors, the belt gets warm.
Would someone wearing a Heat Belt notice any difference from a typical seat belt, as far as size or fit?
You wouldn’t recognize it, even as an expert. You cannot see it; you cannot feel it. It’s hidden and doesn’t change the features of the seat belt. That’s why it’s so easy to apply. You don’t need to change any of your tested and reliable parts of your seat belt system. That’s the core of the innovation.
Besides driver comfort, what are the benefits of the Heat Belt?
It can heat up to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) after two minutes. In that case, you might not want to wear your big winter clothes.
And winter clothes are an issue in the unlikely case of an accident. You have a lot of space between your chest and the seat belt. There’s a lot of slack, and that reduces a seat belt’s efficiency and increases the probability of higher grades of injuries. Ideally, you’d just have your shirt on and a tightened seat belt, giving you perfect protection.
Also, during winter, EV range decreases dramatically, and a big reason is needing to warm up the whole compartment. By having these contact heaters around you, you’re not as focused on having the interior temperature higher. I can live with significantly lower temperatures.
If you have a cold car, it’s likely you’d switch on your Heat Belt, heated steering wheel and heated seat for your drive to work. Doing that, we have roughly calculated, you can reduce the energy used by 15 percent. It depends on personal behavior, obviously, but it’s significant.
When will heated seat belts be in vehicles on the road?
We’re expecting somewhere in the time frame of mid- to late 2025. We have significant interest from automakers. We haven’t finalized a contract yet, but we’re close to doing so.
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