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Ford Figures Out How To Eliminate That New Car Smell

Patent / 14 Comments

But don't we all like that new car scent? The Chinese don't.

Ford recently filed a patent application with the US Patent and Trademark Office for a new method to eliminate that new car smell. Typically, it works the opposite way as consumers prefer for their new cars to smell new for as long as possible. Well, there is one major market that doesn't like that interior scent: China. Last year, Ford announced it had begun work with some Chinese scientists to find the exact cause(s) of the new car smell. Their work has apparently been completed.

According to the patent, the new car smell is caused by volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released by leather, plastic, vinyl and other interior materials. Adhesives, sealants and even glass cleaners can also contribute.

The researchers noted that these VOCs are released in greater quantities when the car's interior is hot, like when parked in the sun. Therefore, the solution to eliminate the odor is to, literally, "bake" the car in order to release the VOCs until the scent is gone entirely. Naturally, the removal process involves parking the car in the sun, slightly open the windows, and, if needed, turn on the engine, heater and fan. Ford also developed a computer system after the car has been purchased that can help determine how likely a car is to smell, whether or not the customer will want it gone, and will even open the windows, activate the fan, heater and even turn on the car if necessary.

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However, because this system requires special software and specific air quality sensors, it only works when fitted to an autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicle. But why did Ford file this patent in the US if it's aimed at Chinese customers? Because the VOCs also contain chemical compounds that can be bad for your health, potentially causing dizziness, headaches and, worst of all, cancer (although that's the most extreme and rare outcome). Now that those VOCs have been isolated, Ford can apply that knowledge to benefit human health. So imagine this future scenario: a self-driving car's sensors could detect too many VOCs for comfort and could drive itself to a sunny spot, roll down the windows, and remove some of that smell.