Press: “Feel-good zone on four wheels”
(This is an article in German by Clemens Gerlach from “Hamburger Wirtschaft”, published in issue 11/2018, http://hamburger-wirtschaft.de/pdf/112018/42/index.html#zoom=z)
Elektrosil has already developed many innovations in the automotive sector. With the new automatic climate control seat, a patent has now been granted to make driving even more comfortable and energy-saving.
Without his developers, Hendrik Niemann is in the lurch. “The colleagues are really inventive,” says the 40-year-old, who heads the Automotive division at Elektrosil Systeme der Elektronik GmbH. “I keep wondering what they can think of.”
One of the resourceful inventors was even a supporter of an edition of the ZDF cult show “Wetter, dass...”. With bow and arrow a modern Robin Hood shot at slices of bread which were thrown up from a toaster high into the hall ceiling by the Elektrosil technician.
Niemann's soft spot is patents. At the end of May his 18th since 2013 was published, he had submitted it in November two years ago. The Innovation and Patent Center (IPC) in the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce named it Patent of the Month. “The invention concerns a process for air-conditioning a residential area of a person with an air-conditioning module,” says the official patent application. Niemann puts it like this: “We want the driver to feel as comfortable as possible in his or her seat.” The feel-good and comfort zone on four wheels.
“I enjoy filing patents. I like to broaden my horizons and create something new,” said the industrial engineer. However, Niemann does not approach his work with the firm intention of making an invention: “I observe for a long time, talk to colleagues. But in the end, it's based on me having a flash of inspiration overnight.”
For twelve years, Niemann has been working for the 125-strong Hamburg-Altona based group of companies, which is very active in medical technology and vending machines. Recently Elektrosil grew strongly in the automotive sector. 40 percent of the total turnover is generated by the medium-sized company founded in 1977 and still owner-managed - and the trend is rising. Customers for products such as fans, control parts and displays include Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler.
Niemann previously worked for EBM-Papst, the German market leader for fans. Making cars better is his passion. But engine power and speed are of little interest to Niemann. “200 horsepower won't do you any good if you're stuck in traffic.” The goal of the native Lüneburger, who was first product manager for fans and ventilators at Elektrosil, is an intelligent and networked vehicle.
Its automatic climate seat, for which a worldwide patent has been applied, helps to master the challenge. “The whole car is no longer air-conditioned, but a climate cocoon is created for the driver or passenger,” explains Niemann. An air film generated by the module flows around the passenger. “Because sitting comfort is an essential point,” Niemann knows. And when do you sit well? “If you don't notice anything.” Without pressure marks, sweating or neck tension.
The system, which is controlled by temperature and humidity sensors, detects when the passengers want heat and cold to be brought in according to their wishes. Colleagues from the development and design departments supported Niemann in the implementation. “The system built into the seat permanently adjusts to the driver's needs without having to readjust,” Niemann said. Get in, choose your own comfort zone, and the technology does the rest. This is a novelty and the invention is also price-competitive. “We couldn't develop anything on a blue haze,” Niemann said.
According to his calculations, the new technology saves almost 30 percent energy due to its efficiency. This is particularly important for electric and hybrid vehicles, as it increases their range. “Combustion engines will continue to exist,” says Niemann, “but the future belongs to electric propulsion.”
However, it will take some time before the Elektrosil invention can be found in the cars of the major manufacturers. “I'm counting on it for 2025,” Niemann says. “It takes so long to develop new cars because of lead times.” But then customers can enjoy real comfort and a comfortable on-board climate. “The semi-autonomous driving brings many freedoms”, Niemann promises, “you can for example read while driving, watch movies, sleep, do something else that gives you pleasure”. Rotatable seats will often be represented in the models.
But Niemann is not satisfied with this, he is already thinking about further innovations. Battery cooling, for example, or ventilation of fuel cells in electrically powered vehicles. “I'm motivated by the upheaval,” he says. “I'll keep looking at which things can be recombined.”
(Clemens Gerlach, Hamburger Wirtschaft, Issue 11/2018, Trends, Pages 42/43, http://hamburger-wirtschaft.de/pdf/112018/42/index.html#zoom=z)