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Answered 2009-02-07 01:12:59


Early automobiles were not exactly comfortable. They were open vehicles and their skinny tires and rugged construction provided for a very rough ride. In winters, passengers bundled up and in the summer, air conditioning was a breeze that resulted from a top speed of 15 mph. And when the car companies started closing up the hoods, things got worse. The interiors got very hot and something serious needed to be done. They put up vents in the floor of the car, but this brought in more dirt and dust than it did cool air. More ingenious ideas followed. In 1884, William Whiteleymade an experimentation by placing blocks of ice in a holder under horse carriages and blowing air inside by means of a fan attached to the axle. A bucket near a floor vent was the automotive equivalent. An evaporative cooling system followed next. The temperature-reducing effect of air passing over water was adopted by a company called Nash and was called a Weather Eye. But the first car with an actual refrigeration system was the 1939Packard. It consisted of a large evaporator, called the 'cooling coil,' which took up the entire trunk space. The only control was a blower switch. Packard, in fact, ran its advertising as, "Forget the heat this summer in the only air-conditioned car in the world. Cadillac followed suit in 1941 with 300 air-conditioned cars. All of these early air-conditioning systems had one big drawback: there was no compressor clutch, so the pump was on when the engine was running. To shut the system off, one had to stop, get out, open the hood, and remove the belt. It wasn't until after WWII that Cadillac advertised a new, high-tech feature: the air-conditioning controls. The controls were located on the rear package shelf, which meant that the driver had to climb into the back seat to shut the system off. Yet it was still better than reaching under the hood. The Harrison Radiator Division of General Motors may be credited with developing the first efficient, affordable unit that could be made in mass production. It was available as an option on all 1954 Pontiacs with V8s. It featured a two-cylinder reciprocating compressor, and an all-brazed condenser. It also used a magnetic clutch, so when it was not in use, no power was needed to drive the compressor, which improved performance and fuel economy. However, air conditioning continued to be a rare option for many years. It wasn't until the late 70s and 80s that air-conditioned cars became a craze. Systems were getting better and people realized that they didn't really have to sweat it out because their air-conditioning units did not run well. It's estimated that now over 80% of the cars and light trucks in operation in the United States have air conditioning. Today, heating and air-conditioning systems are very efficient. Modern Automatic Temperature Control set-ups are more dependable than the older vacuum and thermostatic creations. Computers also insure that both the passenger and driver are comfortable, maintaining the optimum temperature. The future of automotive air conditioning is changing, and for the better. Now there are new electronic and compressor designs. The concern over the chlorofluorocarbon emissions and the damage they cause to ozone layer has induced innovations in order to reduce the emissions. Most cars today use a new refrigerant called R-134A, which contains no chlorine. Auto repair businesses are also taking steps to reduce the amount of R-12 or chlorofluorocarbons that escapes during service work.

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