- Ford has added a technology to its Police Interceptor Utility that can increase the interior temperature beyond 133 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes to kill the novel coronavirus.
- That's about as hot as one of the hottest places on Earth: Death Valley, California.
- Ford worked with Ohio State and police departments to develop the technology.
- Ford has a longstanding relationship with law enforcement as a supplier of vehicles.
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If you've ever lived in a hot climate, you know what it can be like to enter a car that's been parked for a while in the sun, and find that the steering wheel is smoldering to the touch and the cabin feels like a blast furnace.
Unpleasant, but it turns out that intense heat has a plus when it comes to some vehicles: police cars.
Or more accurately, police SUVs. After consulting with law enforcement and first-responders, Ford has added a feature to its 2013-19 model-year Police Interceptor Utilities that can drastically increase the interior temperature to kill off the novel coronavirus.
As hot as the desert
"Using Police Interceptor Utility's own powertrain and climate control systems, this software solution enables vehicles to elevate passenger compartment temperatures beyond 133 degrees Fahrenheit , hotter than Death Valley on its hottest day, for 15 minutes – long enough to help disinfect vehicle touchpoints," Ford said in a statement.
"Once activated, the vehicle's powertrain and climate control systems work together automatically to elevate passenger compartment temperatures. The software warms up the engine to an elevated level, and both heat and fan settings operate on high. The software automatically monitors interior temperatures until the entire passenger compartment hits the optimal level, then that temperature is maintained for 15 minutes."
Ford has a long history of supplying vehicles for law enforcement. Its Interceptor cars and SUVs are something of a gold standard.
But Ford, along with the rest of the US auto industry, has also been focused on devising ways to help fight the coronavirus pandemic. The company has been making ventilators, in collaboration with GE Healthcare, since the carmaker shut down it manufacturing facilities in March. They re-opened about a week ago, but prior to that, a former Ford factory has been repurposed to make ventilators and protective medical gear, with an all-volunteer, United Auto Workers-represented workforce.
Working with Ohio State
Ford cooperated with Ohio State University to figure out how hot a vehicle's needed to be, in order order to disable the COVID-19-causing virus.
"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, microbiology laboratory supervisors at Ohio State, said in a statement.
The technology kicked off in March, when Ford engineers received feedback from the New York City Police Department.
"Law enforcement officers are being dispatched as emergency responders in some cases where ambulances may not be available," Stephen Tyler, Ford's police brand marketing manager, said in a statement.
"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 superheating system acts as a supplement to existing cleaning procedures and offers the advantage of disinfecting areas that are difficult to reach inside vehicles.
The software upgrade is available immediately, and Ford said that large law-enforcement departments with properly-equipped operations could add thee capability themselves, while smaller departments could work with Ford dealers.
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