GMC Creates Virtual Hot and Cold Comfort
DETROIT – General Motors’ climate control engineers call him The Iceman – a high-tech top gun whose team created a way to make vehicle passengers feel much warmer or cooler than the cabin temperature in which they are seated. The result: more-precise comfort control on the 2012 GMC Terrain.
The Iceman – his real name is Jeff Bozeman – says an instinctive sense of frugality drives him to find ways to make heating and cooling systems more efficient.
"Maybe it’s my Dutch heritage, but I’m hyper-focused on finding ways to improve driver and passenger comfort while using the absolute minimum amount of energy possible," said Bozeman.
His team conducts testing in GM’s Climatic Wind Tunnel at the Warren (Mich.) Technical Center, where environmental chambers can mimic temperatures ranging from minus-40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bozeman and his team use both real and digital dummies to pinpoint exactly where climate control air streams will provide maximum comfort without blasting cold or hot air where it is unneeded. The Iceman and his colleagues created Monika, a manikin wired with nickel-chromium sensors that provide detailed comfort feedback to engineers. If Monika is too hot or too cold, she lets engineers know.
GMC also created a sophisticated digital “dummy” that is a better physiological model of the human anatomy, said Bozeman.
"We can better understand things like skin temperature and perspiration and can get a read on a wide range of shapes and sizes of GMC customers," he said. Virtual testing speeds vehicle development, allowing climate control innovations to reach customers faster.
In the Terrain, engineers were challenged to balance highly styled vents and the aesthetic of the cabin design with the function of heating and air conditioning vents.
“We had to work a lot on the directing ability of the outlets,” Bozeman said. “The first impression of the vehicle is the interior, and it’s where people spend most of their time. Our job is to make the vehicle feel as good as it looks inside.”
The Iceman foresees a host of new comfort-enhancing and fuel-saving technologies, such as targeted jets of air similar to those on commercial aircraft, that will use far less energy than today's entire-cabin cooling systems.
The Iceman's cutting-edge research is a collaborative effort among innovators in government, business and research sectors. Bozeman and his team work with the U.S. Department of Energy, the California Energy Commission, Delphi Automotive and the University of California, Berkeley.
GMC has manufactured trucks since 1902, and is one of the industry's healthiest brands. Innovation and engineering excellence is built into all GMC vehicles and the brand is evolving to offer more fuel-efficient trucks and crossovers, including the Terrain smaller SUV and Acadia crossover. GMC is the only manufacturer to offer three full-size hybrid vehicles with the Yukon, Yukon Denali SUVs and the Sierra pickup. The new Sierra Heavy Duty pickups are the most capable and powerful trucks in the market.