When you're the only passenger in a big SUV
, have you ever thought how much gasoline you were wasting by cooling the rear seat and cargo are? The answer: a lot. Ford
, Visteon, Ohio State University, Amerigon International's subsidiary BSST and the U.S. government's National Energy Renewable Laboratory are working on a system that would cool or heat only those riding in the vehicle, not empty space. This could reduce by one-third the energy used by the vehicle's climate control system. Only engineers might care, but it's called thermoelectric zonal heating and cooling, and another benefit is that less air conditioning refrigerant is needed, so fewer greenhouse gas-causing emissions leak into the air. Taxpayers will provide about $4 million of the funding, while private industry will contribute a similar amount.