The last thing anyone wants is to feel uncomfortable at 250 mph.
It's a baking summer's day with the mercury pushing past 90 degrees. You turn on your car's climate control system without a second thought and the usual blast of cold air just isn't there. Another few minutes later and after much fiddling with dials and buttons, you finally accept defeat. Like so many other aspects of our cars, we only tend to notice the air conditioning system when it stops working.
The rest of the time, we nonchalantly enjoy the ability of increasingly advanced systems designed to keep us comfortable no matter what's happening outside. But what if what's happening outside is a 250-mph blur of scenery? Welcome to Bugatti, where technical coordinator Julia Lemke is tasked with ensuring that these hypercars retain ideal temperature control even at these unreal speeds.
At the velocities the Bugatti Chiron Pur Sport and Divo are capable of, Lemke's job isn't easy. Take, for instance, the air conditioning lines which are over 30 feet in length due to the mid-mounted engine. Then, there are two air conditioning condensers with the job of dissipating heat along with a central air conditioning unit.
In the majority of cars, the air is forced through the lower end of the windshield into the cabin. But in a Bugatti, once the speed passes around 250 km/h (155 mph), the control system switches to negative pressure thanks to a ram air flap. With the change in airflow at higher speeds, occupants don't notice any changes in the ventilation system and, consequently, comfort levels aren't compromised.
The other aspect is the rate at which a Bugatti cabin heats up due to a larger glass surface area than most cars and available glass roof. To counteract this, a more powerful air conditioning compressor and two air condensers are used - it's strong enough to cool an 861 square-foot European apartment.
"Our vehicles travel very fast," says Lemke. "In order for the air supply to work properly at maximum speed too, we need to ensure the ventilation and air conditioning are particularly well controlled."
It's probably no surprise that Lemke's doctoral dissertation was about assessing the energy of car air conditioning systems. So precise is her research that she uses smoke lances, 3D simulation, and even wool threads to track airflow and visualize draughts. Only once they're seen can they be removed.
Perhaps the best part of her job? She gets to test the cars herself in a variety of climatic conditions to ensure that temperature regulation is optimal. The Chiron Pur Sport's engine may hog all the attention, but its climate control system is just as much of a technological marvel.