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'TIFFE' outlines innovative vehicle temperature management system

The EU-funded 'TIFFE' project has developed a new vehicle with an innovative front-end design and advanced components for more efficient heat radiation and onboard cooling, and better fuel economy.

Front grill forces cooling air over heat-radiating panels (c) Tiffe

Staying competitive in the automobile manufacturing industry means delivering new products and systems that meet customer expectations. Today, that includes a high level of passenger comfort but also the best fuel efficiency.

With the EU-funded TIFFE projectexternal link, Italy's Centro Ricerche Fiat (CRF) has borrowed an idea from an unlikely source – refrigeration units like the one in your kitchen – to deliver a system that can save up to 15% on fuel while improving onboard vehicle temperature management for passengers.

TIFFE coordinator Carloandrea Malvicino explains, "We've applied a cooling strategy more typically seen in household refrigerators, using a limited quantity of refrigerant to deliver high efficiency and very low leakage."

How it works

Inside your home refrigerator, a special fluid passes through a network of tubes and radiators, drawing heat from the interior of the fridge and dumping it on the outside of the fridge. The TIFFE system does the same thing in a moving vehicle. A special fluid takes heat from inside the vehicle and radiates it into the outside air through panels on the exterior of the vehicle.

When the TIFFE vehicle is moving, and when high cooling power is needed, onrushing air from the front of the vehicle can be directed by an adjustable front grill to flow across these special heat-radiating panels, for example on the underside of the vehicle or in the vehicle's bonnet, increasing the rapidity of heat dissipation. When high cooling power is not needed, the grill can be closed to maintain a more aerodynamic profile.

Smaller, better and less expensive

Malvicino says the new system would cost less than a conventional system because of its high level of integration and modularity, and it will deliver a remarkable fuel economy increase of about 15% in real use.

European Commission project officer Maurizio Maggiore says, "The TIFFE project has come up with a novel way of improving a car's aerodynamics. One of the most interesting outcomes is the change to the front of the car, the grill, with its active shutter configuration."

Malvicino says he believes we can realistically expect to see vehicles featuring the complete TIFFE system on the market by around 2015, though he warns this is a rough estimation and will depend on progress made on some remaining technical issues. Some components, however, might reach production even earlier.