Ford develops heat sanitizers for vehicles

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Heat has the ability to seep into crevices and hard-to-reach areas, helping reduce the impact of human error in applying chemical disinfectants.

With that in consideration, Ford's engineering team initiated a project that started in late March to decontaminate vehicles using heat.

Shortly after, a discussion with the New York City Police Department alerted Ford to its need for a more efficient disinfecting process during the pandemic.ford usa

Ford worked closely with Ohio State University to analyze the temperature and time duration needed to eliminate the COVID-19 to be able to do research on the effectiveness of the aforementioned sanitizing method.

“Our studies with Ford Motor Company indicate that exposing coronaviruses to temperatures of 56 degrees Celsius, or 132.8 degrees Fahrenheit, for 15 minutes reduces the viral concentration by greater than 99 percent on interior surfaces and materials used inside Police Interceptor Utility vehicles,” Jeff Jahnes and Jesse Kwiek, laboratory supervisors at The Ohio State University department of microbiology, stated. 

The American marque has designed a new heated software enhancement to pilot with its Police Interceptor Utility which temporarily raises interior temperatures for a specific time duration to help reduce the viral concentration inside the vehicle.

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“First responders are on the front lines protecting all of us. They are exposed to the virus and are in dire need of protective measures,” Hau Thai-Tang, Ford chief product development and purchasing officer said. “We looked at what’s in our arsenal and how we could step up to help. In this case, we’ve turned the vehicle’s powertrain and heat control systems into a virus neutralizer.”

Basically, this software solution will heat the vehicle’s interiors for a 15 minutes until the viruses inside are eliminated. It enables vehicles to elevate passenger compartment temperatures higher than 133 degrees Fahrenheit using Police Interceptor Utility’s own powertrain and climate control systems.

Once this is activated, the software warms up the engine to an elevated level, and both heat and fan settings operate on high. It automatically monitors interior temperatures until the entire passenger compartment hits the optimal level, then that temperature is maintained for 15 minutes.

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To notify when the process has begun, law enforcement has given multiple ways to monitor the progress such as flashing on of the hazard lights and taillights in a pre-set pattern. It will then change at the end as a sign of completion. This can be used by law enforcement regularly as an aid for sanitization of vehicles when officers are not inside. When used, flooding the passenger compartment with elevated air temperature can help reach areas that may be missed by manual disinfecting procedures. This sanitation guidelines are approved by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Stephen Tyler, Ford police brand marketing manager stated that law enforcement officers are being dispatched as emergency responders in some cases where ambulances may not be available. “During one trip, officers may be transporting a coronavirus patient to a hospital, while another trip may involve an occupant who may be asymptomatic.” The safe heating of the vehicle and compartments can help ensure that the vehicles are properly disinfected before future deployments. Officers can now use this self-cleaning mode as an extra layer of protection inside the vehicle in areas where manual cleaning is prone to be overlooked,” said Tyler. “This virus is an invisible enemy and we are proud to provide a solution to help the law enforcement community fight it.”

This solution will be available immediately on all 2013-19 Police Interceptor Utility vehicles in the United States, Canada, and other countries around the world.

The heated software process for 2016-19 police vehicles can be activated by a smart sequence of commands that involves pressing cruise control buttons in a predefined order.

As for 2013-15 vehicles, it can be carried out through an external tool that connects to the onboard diagnostics port.

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“Vehicles from 2013 to 2019 model years make up the majority of the Police Interceptor Utility vehicles currently in use by first responders,” said Tyler. He added that delivering this new capability allows them to help as many officers as possible, as quickly as possible.

Large departments have their own service centers so they can install the software solution using their own diagnostic service tools, other fleets can contact their local dealers to install the software.

Ford Motor Company conducted software operational trials in vehicles that are owned by the New York City Police Department, Los Angeles Police Department, Michigan State Police, Massachusetts State Police, Boardman Township Police Department in Ohio and Seminole County Sheriff’s Office in Florida.

Photos from Ford USA

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