Tata Motors has partnered with the Mahle Group to work on a new prototype for more efficient in-car air conditioning systems. Being developed under the United Nations Environment and in consultation with the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development (IGSD), the aim of the new Secondary Loop Mobile Air Conditioning (SL-MAC) system is to reduce emissions of harmful elements that impact the environment, in turn improving the cooling efficiency of in-car climate control units.
Tata states that the test vehicle for this technology is a utility vehicle under Tata's new generation platform with individual front and rear air conditioning systems. This vehicle will be equipped with the new SL-MAC system to act as the functioning prototype for the technology. To increase efficiency, alternate refrigerants with lower emission scales cool a secondary coolant, which in turn regulates the temperature inside the car itself. This combination allows the entire system to attain higher cooling capacity while minimising the losses to the environment and optimising the thermodynamic efficiency of the air conditioning unit. Typically, the in-car air conditioning relies on HFC-134a refrigerant, which cools the cabin directly, but its high Global Warming Potential (GWP) makes it unsustainable in the long run.
Alongside the emission benefits, the SL-MAC will turn off the compressor while retaining the coolness of the cabin as the car accelerates, and achieves rapid re-cooling when the car starts again. This, along with automatic engine start/stop functions, help further save on fuel, and Tata Motors claims that this helps vehicles reduce fuel consumption by up to 3 percent. The technology will be equipped in the prototype vehicle and be tested on Indian roads, with the tricky climate conditions, by the end of this year.
While a commercial rollout date for the SL-MAC has not yet been discussed, we expect to first see it actively in Tata Motors Group's vehicles by 2018.