You may be familiar with the Germany company ZF, the supplier of — among many things — an excellent and ubiquitous eight-speed automatic transmission used in many high-end cars like the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. Well, you might soon know them for something else, as ZF just brought some new tech to CES 2023 that could solve one of the biggest problems for EV drivers.
The technology is a heated seat belt — or, as ZF efficiently refers to it, the "heat belt." The seat belts would integrate heating conductors into the belt's webbing without affecting its comfort or safety functionality. The belt could instantly heat to temperatures between 96ºF and 104ºF and work in concert with heated seats to keep the occupants warm.
Besides being pleasant, ZF believes the heat belts would dramatically reduce the energy needed to heat the cabin. As EV owners outside Florida and Southern California will know, running the climate controls in the winter can be a significant drain on the range, potentially exceeding 40%. ZF believes using the heat belts with heated seats could result in a 15% range gain.
Combustion vehicles — it should be noted — also experience range loss running heating systems in cold weather. But that lost range is more easily replaced by filling up the tank with gas.
The heat belts may not be a full-proof concept. One drawback is that children in car seats are not using seat belts. So, if you're driving with the family, you will still be heavily dependent on climate controls. ZF also notes that occupants should remove heavy clothing for the heated belts to function. And it's not clear how much heat you would lose by removing your coat on a cold day.
But unlike many of the automotive innovations unveiled at CES, heat belts feel like something automakers could incorporate into vehicles within a relatively short timeframe — especially with many luxury automakers planning to go entirely EV by 2030.