Energy-efficient and automated climate control of electric vehicles using innovative sensors to define thermal comfort as a novel control variable

Project duration:

12/2014 to 05/2017


The German Federal Environmental Foundation (Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt, DBU)

Project consortium:

  • InfraTec
  • Institute of Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Building (E3D)
  • Vereta GmbH
  • Volkswagen AG
  • FH Ostfalia


Intelligent thermal management and energy-efficient climate control are key factors in the series production of efficient electric vehicles. As electric vehicles don’t have combustion engines that could provide heat, it is not possible to conventional air-conditioning systems due to their high energy consumption. Conventional air conditioning systems are based on cabin temperature, outside air temperature, and solar intensity – irrespective of the actual effect of the indoor climate on the passengers. Essentially, the entire cabin is heated or cooled.

Therefore, the project focuses on a completely new approach towards more energy efficiency, with an emphasis on thermal comfort and a climate system that can be technically operated while driving. This is made possible by new innovative sensors that detect the occupants’ individual comfort conditions and passes respective data on to the climate system as a control variable. To this end, camera-based sensors detect the occupants’ infrared signature. Air sensors that are built into the seat capture the climate inside the vehicle as well as the humidity at contact points on the surface of the seat. The respective internal thermo-physiological model simulates the occupants’ actual thermal state, providing the climate system with data on thermal comfort as a control variable. The knowledge-based approach allows for significant efficiency-improvements.