A Brief History Of Car Air Conditioning

Air conditioning comes standard in almost every car sold throughout the world today. In the earlier days of motoring, vehicles were primarily open-bodied so manufacturers believed no special provisions were required. Come to the turn of the century and the gradual change to closed-body vehicles around 1908, inventors started to look at the best way to develop a comfort cooling system. Even with a need for this product, the first practical automotive air-conditioning system wasn’t developed until 1939 by Packard.

1939 – Packard Invents The Coolest Ride In Town

In 1939, Packard became the first automobile manufacturer to have an air conditioning unit installed in its cars as an optional extra. Known as the “weather conditioner”, customers were able to order the conversion which was completed by a company known as Bishop and Babcock Co. Although this product was marketed well, it was not commercially successful and was discontinued after 1941. This was due to the many mechanical problems it faced and constant servicing it required. Diagnosis & repair of car air conditioning by trusted professionals such as Autospark is much more detailed and efficient in today’s age.

1940’s – Aftermarket Air Conditioning Becomes Big Business

By 1947, following World War II, independent manufacturers began installing aftermarket air conditioning units in all makes of cars. Although these often came with a large price tag, cheaper cooling options such as the car cooler (also known as the swamp cooler) became quite popular, especially in areas with low humidity. These products were powered through the car’s cigarette lighter and operated with water or ice and a fan.

1950’s – Air Conditioning Gains Popularity

The 1950’s sprouted the beginning of several manufacturers offering air conditioning as an option in their automobiles. In 1953, General Motors automobiles began installing air conditioning systems manufactured by Frigidaire in virtually all of their car models. Come 1954, both Pontiac and Nash became the first two companies to fit their air conditioning units in the front of the car, rather than the back.

The system developed by Nash, known as “All-Weather Eye” combined both a heater and air conditioner into one in-dash system. This set the standard that most manufacturers have still followed until this day. By the mid-1950, seven more carmakers listed air conditioning in their automobiles as an option.

1960’s – Number Of Air Conditioners Installed Tripling

Between 1961 – 1964, the number of air conditioners installed in cars tripled due to its skyrocketing popularity. 1964 also introduced Cadillacs comfort control system. For the first time, drivers could input their preferred temperature and the system would automatically adjust to keep the interior of the car a set temperature.

1970’s – Environmental Impact Becomes Big Talking Point

The 1970’s sparked the debate of the environmental impact of air conditioning. The debate was focussed around the particular compound used in automobile air conditioners. Although this threatened the automobile industry, the efficiency and design of car air conditioning units continued to be improved.

1980’s – Air Conditioning Materials Change

Facing an impending ban on R12, the controversial refrigerant believed to have a horrible effect on the ozone layer, carmakers developed future air conditioning units with R134a refrigerant. This continued to drive innovation and technological advancements.

1990’s – Laws Cause Change, Popularity Continues To Grow

The ban on R12 sparked the shift of all future automobile air conditioning systems to use R134a refrigerant. Luckily most car manufacturers already adopted this change many years before the ban allowing them to continue advancing their products.

Air Conditioning Today

The debate over the environmental impact of all air conditioning units is still very much alive. Although there have been discussions of potential new refrigerants that could be used in the future, the past two decades has stayed mostly the same. However, the continued advancements and research keep the future of automobile air conditioning bright.