These cooled or heated seats can lower driver fatigue even in absence of an AC

Fatigue is one of the prime reason for a number of road accidents involving commercial vehicles. Dhama Innovations believes it has found a solution to the problem and that solution is cooling of the seats instead of the entire cabin but at what cost and will it be viable for the occupants?

By: | Updated: April 4, 2017 6:26 PM
Image for representation purpose only

The founder of Dhama Innovations, Kranthi Vistakula, who graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States of America, saw a major problem while studying there. While layers of clothing had to be worn when stepping out of a closed compound during winters, the same had to be taken off once inside since the buildings are centrally heated. He then invented a vest which after some patents led to a trickle effect in the healthcare industry. Later on, Kranti moved to India and launched a brand by the name of Dhama Innovations, which has been understanding how this technology can be made cost-effective and put into vehicles, especially commercial vehicles. Here is what the company is developing right now and how it would be beneficial for passenger vehicle owners as well as fleet operators of all vehicle categories.

What is the concept about and where can one see the implementations?
Most passenger vehicles sold in the country are offered with air conditioners which can relieve the occupants and the driver from the extreme temperatures that are developed in a cabin. However, there is no set rule for commercial vehicles to have this feature. This results in added driver fatigue over long distances. According to Dhama Innovations, 65 percent of an occupant's comfort comes from the ambient temperature of the cabin, while 22 percent is from the seat back rest and 13 percent is from the seat's base. None of the aforementioned facilities are available on a mass market level in the commercial vehicle segment. Also, according to this company, driver's fatigue is one of the key reasons for road accidents involving commercial vehicles.

The founders added that although the proposal by the Government of India for air conditioned cabins is underway, till the time it is implemented, fleet owners can look at this as a viable option. For a full sized truck which costs Rs 17 lakh (excluding body building and all other taxes incurred), the cost of a single temperature controlled seat is approximately 0.2 percent as per the company. In addition, there is no adverse effect on the fuel efficiency of the vehicle. Also, according to Dhama Innovations, installation of an air conditioner in trucks would also increase costs, particularly in the FMCG sector as the fuel efficiency of the vehicle will drop.

Another aspect which the company is exploring is retro fitment in passenger vehicles as well as for riding jackets. Discussions for providing a seat or clothing which has this technology integrated is similar to commercial vehicles.

How will it be profitable for a fleet owner, if this system is either retro-fitted or integrated as a standard fitment in a commercial vehicle?
According to the organisation, a number of fleet operators either cannot or do not provide an air conditioned cabin in a commercial vehicle, particularly trucks. In order to save costs, drivers of smaller sized fleet operators such as taxi drivers turn off their air conditioning systems in order to save costs. The company also pointed out at the fact that most truck drivers are given a target i.e for 10 kms, the driver has been given a certain amount and anything extra would be borne by him. This would also discourage the use of air conditioners even if they are mandated in heavy vehicles like trucks so that the driver can save some more money by improving the fuel efficiency.

In terms of profitability, the company claims that installing just this fitment would reduce a driver's fatigue level which would entail in him covering more distance. For example, if a driver is covering 600 kms per day, he would be able to cover 60 more kilometres every time he is behind the wheel due to less fatigue.

Temperature regulated racing seats. For representation purpose only

In case of a fire or a short circuit, how safe is this technology?
Dhama Innovations' has worked on a custom theromoelectric module that has no fluids or moving parts. In case of a fire, the system automatically shuts off once the ambient temperature goes beyond a certain limit. This, in turn, triggers a fuse which turns off the device and instead of any kind of explosion, the heating pads melt since there is no flammable material used in the construction of any of the products.

What was the focus while developing the temperature controlled seats?
The company did a pressure mapping of the back, bottom and analysed the areas where sweating is maximum and the 'ThermaCool' pads were placed accordingly for maximum focus on the highest 'sweat points'.

What other products is Dhama Innovations currently considering and has already introduced?
The company's first entry was into healthcare products where it has temperature controlled knee pads, elbow pads, neck pads etc., however, now Dhama Innovations will also enter the commercial vehicle space. Another aspect that they are considering is the availability of these seats in a universal format for fitting in smaller vehicles which can draw its power from the 12 volt DC socket which is available in most cars as a standard fitment. For two-wheelers, the company has already introduced a vest which is priced at Rs 22,780 and is available on their official website. The system can be worn under a riding jacket as well and the company is also discussing with two-wheeler safety equipment providers such as riding jackets and helmets to integrate this technology into their products. The next product which is expected to be launched is a temperature controlled cap.

How much is the lifecycle of these products?
The company claims that for the pads and other parts which would be integrated into a seat will last for about 15 years. Other parts in case of mobile products such as vests or sporting equipment will incur a small cost in terms of battery replacement or minor switchgear repair.

While the Government of India is proposing air conditioners to be fitted across all commercial vehicles, a technology such as an integrated temperature controlled seat would prove to be a good stop-gap arrangement and if the acceptability of such a product could become widespread, the implementation of air conditioner in heavy vehicles can be implemented in a proper and phased manner unlike a sudden effect.

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